Chances are you’re not likely to get attacked by a shark.
Between 1950 and 2020, unprovoked shark attacks increased from an average of 50 shark attacks per year to 80 shark attacks per year.
Unprovoked means any shark attack that occurs with no human provocation.
To get a clearer picture, population growth needs to be factored in. The global population has increased from 2.5 billion to 8 billion over the same period, meaning the rate of shark attacks has actually fallen from .012 shark attackers per million people in 2050 to .010 shark attackers per million people in 2020.
The top five most common places for shark attacks are the US, in particular Florida, North and South Carolina, Hawaii, and California. South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Réunion Island, and the Bahamas are also known for the highest attack rates.
“When you’re in the water, if you’re in a healthy marine ecosystem … you’re often never more than 100 yards from a shark,” Jeff Corwin, an American biologist and wildlife conservationist, told CBS News.
If you’re going to get attacked, the most likely culprits will be great white sharks, tiger sharks, and bull sharks.
Great white sharks are big and powerful, and unlike other sharks, they have good vision and like to hunt in clear water.
They tend to come from below and kill their prey with one brutal bite.
Great white sharks are probably the most famous shark thanks to the classic film “Jaws.”
Tiger sharks are large, curious, and aggressive.
There are a number of other sharks that are less likely to attack but still could, including hammerheads, makos, whitetips, and reef sharks.
There are three main types of unprovoked shark attacks. The first is known as the “hit and run.”
This covers most shark attacks that occur in waves near the shore, usually involving surfers or people swimming. Often, the shark will take a single bite of a surfer or a swimmer, and then disappear without being seen.
Experts believe this is because sharks confuse people for prey due to bad water visibility, strong currents, and crashing surf.
“A shark has got no paws or hands, so if it wants to explore something, the only capability it’s got to do that is to put it in its mouth,” Richard Peirce, former Shark Conservation Society Chair, told CNN.
“That’s why we often get exploratory bites which don’t result in death and sometimes don’t even result in serious injury,” he added.
To limit your chances of being attacked by a shark, avoid swimming in estuaries and deep channels between sandbars and the shore.
“Visibility is a huge factor in shark attacks,” George Burgess, former director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, told National Geographic.
“That’s one of the reasons we suggest that people avoid murky water situations when they go into the water,” he continued.
If you’re surfing, kayaking, or paddle boarding and you can’t get out of the water, put the board or kayak between you and the shark.
If you’re near a surface, like a reef, get your back against it so that the shark has fewer places to attack you from.
If you can, look directly at the shark. Because sharks like to ambush their prey, this can stop them from feeling comfortable before they attack.
“If you’re turning around and facing it the whole time while it circles you, it’s not going to be half as comfortable as if it’s able to sneak up from behind,” Peirce told CNN.
If you can’t get out of the water, then you may need to defend yourself. Experts advise aiming for a shark’s gills, eyes, or nose.
Burgess told Insider the nose was one of the shark’s most sensitive spots, and a good hit could give you enough time to get out of the water.
However, Sara Waries, the CEO at Shark Spotters in Cape Town, also told The New York Times to be careful when striking the nose as it’s “dangerously close to the teeth.”
If you have anything on you like a camera, a snorkel, or perhaps a speargun, use it to attack the shark. If the shark does bite you, then try to attack its eyes and gills again.
Burgess told Insider there had been instances where a shark has let a person go after the person has hit it in the eyes or gills.