Shark bites surged in 2021, rebounding from a drop earlier in the pandemic
The number of shark bites worldwide ebbed during the first part of the pandemic, a trend experts attribute in part to the beach closures that were part of some COVID-19 lockdowns.
But those days are over, according to new data from the Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File.
Last year, there were 73 unprovoked incidents between sharks and humans, up from just 52 confirmed bites in 2020. It was the first year the number ticked up after three years of declines.
"Shark bites dropped drastically in 2020 due to the pandemic," ISAF manager Tyler Bowling said in a statement. "This past year was much more typical, with average bite numbers from an assortment of species and fatalities from white sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks."
Still, the organization says the high numbers of shark bites and deaths last year were on par with long-term averages.
The U.S. had the highest number of shark bites, accounting for 64% of global reports, all but five of which occurred along the Atlantic Seaboard. Florida saw six of every 10 bites in the country. Australia had the second-highest number of shark attacks globally.
Six of the reported deaths occurred in the South Pacific — specifically Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand — while the U.S., Brazil and South Africa each saw one fatality.
Experts say you can reduce your risk of a shark bite by swimming with another person, staying close to shore, not swimming at dawn or dusk and avoiding schools of fish.
This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog. [Copyright 2022 NPR]