Bees more deadly than sharks
Published 17/08/2011 | 09:04
Sharks have a terrifying image, but only a handful of people are killed each year by their attacks.
The reality is that people are more likely to be killed by a lighting strike or a bee sting.
Last year, there were 79 recorded attacks, resulting in six deaths, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) from the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The number of attacks was up 16 from the previous year but still one lower than in 2000.
The US had the most shark attacks - 36 - followed by Australia with 14, South Africa with eight, and Vietnam and Egypt, both six.
While there are about 400 species of shark, only a handful are associated with attacks on humans.
The white shark, tiger shark and bull shark are most commonly implicated, while the great hammerhead, oceanic whitetip, and certain reef sharks have also reportedly been involved in attacks.
There are three main types of unprovoked shark attack: hit and run attacks, bump and bite attacks, and sneak attacks, according to ISAF.
In hit and run attacks, sharks in the "surf zone" mistakenly attack swimmers or surfers, before swimming away when they realise the human is not normal prey.
Victims usually escape with non life-threatening injuries, such as lacerations to the leg.
Bump and bite and sneak attacks are less common but result in more deaths, with the animal either circling and bumping the victim or striking without warning.
These attacks may be the result of antagonistic behaviour or when the sharks smell blood and are in an increased feeding state.
The sharks are in need of protection, according to conservationists.
A report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that out of 64 known species of open-ocean sharks, 35 were deemed to be threatened or near-threatened with extinction.
Overfishing is blamed for putting species such as the great white on the at-risk list.
There have been calls for stronger legislation to outlaw "finning" - the removal of the shark's fin, a delicacy in parts of Asia, and dumping of the rest of the body in the ocean.
Although a ban on the practice does exist, it is claimed that loopholes in the law limit its effectiveness and the ability of agencies to prosecute those found guilty.
Up to 73 million sharks are killed around the world each year.