Sharks attacked 16 people off Florida in 2022
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Sharks bit 16 people in unprovoked attacks off Florida’s waters last year, marking the highest reported number of bites than anywhere else in the world.
Florida again had more reported bites than anywhere else on Earth, according to researchers with the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, which documents shark attacks each year.
One of those was the attention-grabbing case in the Florida Keys when a Texas woman punched a shark to set herself free. “I felt like I was in a ‘Jaws’ movie at that moment,” Heather West said at the time.
As in previous years, the U.S. had the highest number of bites, and Florida again made up the most in America. None of Florida’s 16 unprovoked bites was fatal, but two resulted in amputations. Florida made up 39% of bites in the U.S., followed by New York, which had eight bites, or 20%.
The rest of the states where people suffered shark bites in 2022 were Hawaii (5); California and South Carolina (4 each), North Carolina (2) and Texas and Alabama, with one bite each.
Still, the number of unprovoked shark attacks worldwide decreased in 2022, tying with 2020 for the fewest number of reported incidents in the last decade, according to the study.
There were 57 unprovoked bites in 2022, most of which happened in the United States and Australia. Of these, five attacks were fatal, down from nine deaths in 2021 and 10 the year prior.
The study noted the reduction in the number of last year’s bites may reflect the documented global decline of shark populations. “Generally speaking, the number of sharks in the world’s oceans has decreased, which may have contributed to recent lulls,” said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Florida Program for Shark Research, said in a prepared statement.
The numbers were indeed higher in previous years. Florida saw 32 attacks in 2016 and 31 attacks in 2017. Historically, unprovoked attacks usually occur in August and September, according to the report. Most of the predators were the bull, blacktip and spinner species of sharks.
The International Shark Attack File focuses on unprovoked bites in its annual report and does not highlight attacks “that may have been prompted by mitigating circumstances, such as fishing lines cast in the direct vicinity of the incident or the presence of chum in the water.” There were 32 additional bites in 2022 that had been intentionally or unintentionally provoked.
Seven of Florida’s 16 attacks last year were in Volusia County, home to beach cities such as Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach. Monroe County, which includes the Keys, had four attacks. Palm Beach, Brevard, Martin, Nassau and Pinellas counties each had one attack.