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Q&A: Shark attack statistics

A bull shark swims close to Miramar Beach a day after a teenage girl was attacked nearby.

Associated Press (2005)

A bull shark swims close to Miramar Beach a day after a teenage girl was attacked nearby.

Shark attack statistics

Every time there's a shark attack, there are a lot of stories in the papers and on the news. But there aren't really that many attacks, are there?

The International Shark Attack File, a project of the American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, keeps a database of shark attacks that you can pore over at www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/ISAF/ISAF.htm.

In 2008, there were 59 documented cases of shark attacks in the world, with four fatalities. The numbers are up considerably since 1990, which had 36 attacks and two fatalities, but generally have leveled off since the high of 79 (11 fatalities) in 2000.

Still, the number of attacks in the 1990s has doubled that of any other decade on record. And experts say the number of incidents is likely to grow simply because more people are spending more time in the water.

Florida remains the shark attack center of the world, with 32 attacks in each of the past two years, though no fatalities. Australia is the only other spot in double digits, with 12 in 2008 and 13 in 2007.

And the capital of the capital is Volusia County, where there have been more than 200 attacks since 1882. New Smyrna Beach was recently named the nation's top shark-attack beach by George Burgess, an ichthyologist at the University of Florida who maintains the ISAF database.

No. 2 was Brevard County, with about half as many as Volusia, with Palm Beach County third. Pinellas made the top 10 with 11 attacks between 1882 and 2007.

Scared yet? Well, statistically your chances of being killed by a shark pale in comparison with some other Florida hazards. For instance, between 1959 and 2007, Florida had 449 fatalities from lightning and eight from shark attacks. Between 1985 and 2007, 124 people died in tornadoes; only five by shark. Between 1995 and 2007 there were 839 boating fatalities and four shark fatalities. And between 1948 and 2005, 17 people were killed by alligators and eight by sharks.

Protecting the president's kids

How difficult would it be for the security detail to cover the children of a president should they choose to go to public school?

The last presidential child to attend public school in Washington was Amy Carter, daughter of President Jimmy Carter. She was a student at Thaddeus Stevens School, entering in the fourth grade, and later attended Hardy Middle School.

She was attended by a Secret Service detail, but encountered little publicized difficulty beyond occasional swarms of the press and concerns about the playground being too close to the street. She now lives quietly in Atlanta.

Presumably, in the post-9/11 era, securing a public school for daily attendance by a presidential offspring would pose a stiffer challenge.

Q&A: Shark attack statistics 06/21/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 5:30am]
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