Chances Of Getting Killed By A Shark

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Underwater photographer Fiona Ayerst captures a bull shark off the coast of Mozambique. Bull sharks are one of the “big three” that researchers consider deadliest, because they are often found in populated areas where humans enter the water and because they are large species whose teeth are designed to break, not hold. (Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

Chances Of Getting Killed By A Shark

Blacktip reef sharks at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago are on display. In Florida, blacktip sharks and bull sharks accounted for about 40% of attacks between 1920 and 2012.

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Sand tiger sharks live close to the coast and sandy beaches in North America and in the waters of Japan, Australia and South Africa. It is one of the “big three” shark species that die due to the frequency of attacks and being a large species whose teeth can cause serious injuries. (AFP/Getty Images)

A spinner shark jumps out of the water in the Florida Keys. Spinner sharks are responsible for about 16% of shark attacks in Florida since 1920, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Member R.J. The University of Miami’s Dunlap Marine Conservation Program spotted an untagged tiger shark in the Caribbean Sea, west of the Bahamas. (Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

In Manhattan Beach, lifeguard Natalia Vecerek patrolled the beach in July 2014 telling people to get out of the water after a swimmer was injured in a shark attack in the morning. (Rick Loomis/Los Angeles Times)

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A shark attacks a swimmer at Manhattan Beach Pier in July 2014. (Laura Joyce /

A 65-year-old woman was killed Wednesday in a shark attack off the coast of Maui, Hawaii: According to a statement from the County of Maui, Margaret C. Cruse was snorkeling with friends and was found floating alone in the water. She had suffered a fatal injury to her upper body consistent with a shark attack and was taken ashore by other beachgoers. Officials have closed the beach for miles in both directions from the attack. Also on Wednesday, officials here in Seal Beach posted shark warning signs near the water after lifeguards saw several young great white sharks near the surfline.

Worried about being attacked by a shark? L.A. The Times spoke to researchers at the University of Florida, which maintains the International Shark Attack File, to find out how this might have happened and what to do if it did:

For Americans, the lifetime risk of dying from a shark attack is about 1 in 3.7 million. That means you are more likely to die of heart disease (1 in 5), be killed by lightning (1 in 79,746), or die by firecrackers (1 in 340,733).

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Only three people worldwide died from shark attacks last year, none of them in the United States. By comparison, studies show that humans kill an estimated 26 million to 73 million sharks for their fins each year.

Before Thursday, the last fatal shark attack in the United States was in August 2013, when a 20-year-old German woman died after a shark bit her arm while she was snorkeling.

Later that year, a Washington man fishing from a kayak off the coast of Maui died after a shark bit off his leg. Because he was fishing, the attack was ruled unprovoked.

The last fatal shark bite in California was in October 2012, when a great white shark about 15 feet (4.5 meters) in length hit Francisco Javier Solorio Jr. attacked while surfing on the beach in Santa Barbara County. Solorio, 39, suffered massive body injuries and died shortly after being brought ashore.

Why Are We Afraid Of Sharks? There’s A Scientific Explanation.

Shark attacks have continued to increase over the past century, with almost every decade having a greater number of attacks than the last. This is likely because humans are spending more and more time in the ocean, increasing opportunities for interaction with animals.

“We all go out to sea with as little clothing and protection as possible, and we’re going into a desert area with animals that are 20 feet long and have sharp teeth,” said George H. Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, which compiled the database International Shark Attack File. “The reality is that we are taking sharks out of their original environment. We are entering their territory and now we are encouraging this interaction by attacking their water base.”

Yet last year there were only 72 shark attacks worldwide. Compared to the billions of hours people spend on water each year, experts say, the number is “remarkably low.”

Shark attacks have become less and less deadly over the past century. This is likely due to increased awareness of potentially dangerous situations as well as advances in beach safety and medical treatment.

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Surfers and other lodgers are the most likely to be bitten. In recent decades, surfers have been the most affected by shark attacks. Experts believe it has to do with the amount of time they spend in the surf zone, where sharks frequent, and kicking them, splashing and brushing, all activities that can attract sharks. Surfers and people participating in other board sports accounted for 65% of shark attack cases worldwide last year. Swimmers and waders made up about a third, and snorkelers experienced only 3%. Very few shark species are considered dangerous to humans.

According to the International Shark Attack File, only about 30 of the more than 375 known shark species have been reported to attack humans. Of those, experts say, only about a dozen are considered dangerous when encountered by humans, including white sharks, tiger sharks and bull sharks.

In Florida, blacktip and bull sharks accounted for about 40% of attacks between 1920 and 2012, and spinner sharks 16%.

In California, great white sharks are the most dangerous – accounting for 97% of unprovoked attacks from 1950 to 2012.

Why Sharks Are More Afraid Of Us Than We Are Of Them

Most shark attacks in the world occur in North American waters. Almost two-thirds of shark attacks in 2014 occurred in North American waters, which has dominated the number of attacks worldwide for decades. In 2014, 45 of the world’s 72 shark attacks occurred in North American waters. That does not include the seven that occur in Hawaii, which is considered part of the Pacific Ocean. The second highest number of shark attacks for 2014 occurred in Australia, where there were 11 incidents last year. Florida has held the title for the highest number of shark attacks in the US for decades.

More than half of the unprovoked shark attacks in the US last year occurred in Florida. The country saw 28 shark attacks in 2014, up from 23 in 2013. Experts attribute the higher number of bites to the country’s long coastline; a large number of tourists and locals who use the water, especially for surfing; and the region’s rich natural aquatic habitats.

Florida is also considered one of the biggest shark attack hotspots in the world. Other shark attack areas include Australia, South Africa and Hawaii.

If you see a shark, don’t disturb it. Almost a quarter of shark attacks since the 1980s were provoked, meaning humans did something to distract the animal, such as holding its tail in the water or trying to pull a hook out of its mouth. “It’s like kicking a dog in the corner and being surprised it bites you on the ankle,” Burgess said.

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Stay in a group while in the water as a shark is more likely to attack a lone individual.

Avoid being out in the water at night or dusk, when sharks are most active.

Do not wear shiny jewelry because it can reflect the light and resemble the flash of fish scales in the water.

What to do if attacked: Do not panic if you see a shark from a distance. Stay in one place and be as possible. If the shark starts to approach, get out of the water by swimming as fast and smoothly as possible, keeping one eye on the shark the whole time and keeping your group or partner close. If the shark seems to be getting aggressive – swimming quickly in a zigzag pattern or running at you – try backing up against an existing structure, such as a rock, reef, or boat. If the shark attacks you, hit it on the tip of the nose. This will usually cause the shark to retreat. If not and the shark grabs you in its mouth, defend itself aggressively by clawing at its eyes and gills or snapping as hard as it can. Playing dead doesn’t work. Get out of the water as soon as possible, as blood can encourage the shark to attack again. For more latest news, follow me @cmaiduc on Twitter. UPDATES 16:47: This article has been updated with comments from Florida Shark Research Program Director George H. Burgess and additional details. First version of this article

How To Survive A Shark Attack

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