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Labor Day Crowds See Multiple Shark Attack in Florida
Are shark attacks on the rise?
Much of human history has been an exercise in separating ourselves from nature. Whether it’s a cave or a New York apartment, shelter is about getting out of the elements. We invented farming to avoid picking food and we invented animal agriculture to get out of hunting. Most of us are happiest ordering Door Dash and having stories pumped into our heads. As a result, we don’t often find ourselves anywhere but the top of the food chain.
In the summer of 1975, Steven Spielberg tapped into that primal unease with nature to create one of the most enduring creature features of all time: Jaws. We’ve thrown a lasso around the terrestrial world, but there are still monsters in the ocean and they don’t give a solitary toot about what you’ve got going on. Recently, headlines (including some of our own) have been littered with stories about shark attacks all over the world and, sadly, those attacks are on the rise.
Shark Attacks Increase in Summer and Early Fall
New Smyrna Beach, Florida was the sight two shark attacks on Labor Day, 2023. Beachgoers gathered to enjoy the warm weather and nice waves, unaware that disaster was looming. Both bites occurred at or near Ponce Inlet where a woman was bitten on the right foot and a man was bitten on the left hand, on the same day. Those bites follow a previous shark encounter in the same are days earlier, when a surfer was bitten on the left ankle.
In each case, the victims were transported for medical treatment and the sharks, presumably, went about their day. Shark attacks tend to peak during daylight hours, on weekends, during warm months. As you can imagine, sharks don’t hold to the Gregorian calendar (though some of them do pay attention to the lunar calendar) but people do. Upticks in shark attacks tend to correspond to when more people are in the water.
Records of historical shark bites show a dramatic increase between August and October, when swimmers and divers are most likely to be in the water. The point is, the sharks aren’t the variable, we are.
Shark Attacks Aren’t Rising Overall
The area around New Smyrna Beach has seen a total of six shark attacks so far this year, and it’s likely they’ll have a few more over the next couple of months. The recent attacks also come on the heels of an attack in Australia, and attacks both in Hawaii and Egypt earlier this year.
You might think the sharks have joined forces with orcas to stage a violent overthrow of humanity, but the data doesn’t bear that out. The Global Shark Attack File tracks all known shark attacks globally, and their data goes back to 1860. So far this year, they’ve documented a total of 69 attacks from around the world. Importantly, those include provoked attacks, unprovoked attacks, attacks against boats and other watercraft, and unconfirmed attacks.
For comparison, there were 74 attacks by this time last year, and 87 by this time in 2021. If anything, there is actually a slight decline in overall attacks so far this year, as compared with recent years. The sharks aren’t coming for us but we are entering their domain and that comes with a certain amount of inherent risk. If you’re heading to the beach to catch the last few weeks of good weather, remember to stay safe out there. For information on how to reduce the odds of a shark attack, check out this handy guide from Florida Fish and Wildlife's Conservation Commission.
Catch Jaws and its sequels available now from Universal Pictures.
*This story was updated with the latest information and context on the attacks on Thursday, September 7, 2023.
Originally published Sep 6, 2023.