Are shark-bite in­ci­dents in­creas­ing?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q&A - Cat Gor­don

AThe num­ber of shark bites re­ported each year is rel­a­tive to the num­ber of peo­ple en­ter­ing the wa­ter. The rapid growth in coastal pop­u­la­tions and in­creased pop­u­lar­ity of ocean-based recre­ational pur­suits (and the ad­vances in equip­ment such as wet­suits) mean that hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple are en­ter­ing the marine en­vi­ron­ment for longer pe­ri­ods of time. If cur­rent life­style and de­mo­graphic trends con­tinue, then the num­ber of re­ported bites could re­flect this.

Fa­tal­i­ties from shark bites are very rare (you’ll have heard the com­par­isons that more deaths are caused by fall­ing co­conuts, traf­fic ac­ci­dents, faulty toast­ers and self­ies) but when th­ese tragic in­ci­dents do oc­cur, they gen­er­ate a lot of me­dia at­ten­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Shark At­tack Files, there were 154 bite in­ci­dents in 2016. Of th­ese, 84 were con­sid­ered un­pro­voked, four of which were fa­tal. The re­main­ing in­ci­dents were ei­ther pro­voked, oc­curred post-mortem, in­volved sharks bit­ing boats, did not in fact in­volve sharks, or were not fully ex­plained. The 2016 statis­tic of 84 un­pro­voked in­ci­dents is on a par with the av­er­age of 82 be­tween

2011–2015, though 2015 saw the fig­ure jump to a record high of 98.

Peo­ple won­der if the global shark de­cline is re­duc­ing bite fre­quency. A re­cent study sug­gested that a quar­ter of shark, skate, ray and chi­maera (long-tailed car­ti­lagi­nous fish) species are threat­ened ac­cord­ing to the IUCN Red List cri­te­ria, with large-bod­ied, shal­lowwa­ter species, such as saw­fishes and an­gel sharks, at the great­est risk. Th­ese species are not usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with hu­mans. In any case, the chance of sharks and peo­ple cross­ing paths varies hugely ac­cord­ing to cli­mate, lo­ca­tion and lo­cal hu­man ac­tiv­ity.

Tiger sharks ( pic­tured), bulls and great whites are the three species most as­so­ci­ated with shark-hu­man in­ter­ac­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.