The truth about shark attacks in North Carolina

Updated: Jul. 30, 2019 at 3:53 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - It seems you can’t turn on the TV or check Facebook without seeing new photos of sharks swimming mere feet away from unsuspecting swimmers.

Hearing about people in the Carolinas who have been bitten by sharks this summer makes it seem like our waters are getting “sharkier,” when in fact, experts say they’re seeing quite the opposite.

According to the International Shark Attack File, shark bites actually nosedived in 2018.

You might remember seeing headlines, but The University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File reported only 66 unprovoked shark bites in 2018, down from 88 in 2017.

That’s 26 percent lower than the five-year average.

If you look at a map of unprovoked shark attacks, the majority of the encounters in the US appear to be in the state of Florida. Behind Florida is Hawaii, California, then the Carolinas.**

Of all of North Carolina’s counties, the Cape Fear region actually leads the state in confirmed shark attacks, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Since 1935, Brunswick County had 14 reported attacks and New Hanover had 13 reported attacks. Carteret County was close behind with 12 confirmed attacks.

The database also had some insight on who is most at risk of being bitten by a shark.

Surfers and people that participate in board sports account for the most incidents. They come in at 53 percent of run-ins, while swimmers make up 30.

In terms of what kind of kind of sharks to watch out for, researchers warn white, tiger and bull sharks have the highest totals of unprovoked attacks around the world. They’re all large fish capable of inflicting major injuries because their teeth are designed to shred their prey, not just hold on to it.

The statistics do have good news for people who love spending time in the ocean: your risk of dying from a shark attack is 1 in 3,748,067.

To compare, your risk of dying from a car accident is 1 in 84. You’re 23 times more likely to be struck by lightning. You have a better chance of dying from a bee sting, a dog or a snake bite than from a shark attack.

*** North Carolina data doesn’t go back quite as far at other state’s data- the database looks at 1935 to present while the data set for the United States as a whole covers Unprovoked Shark Attacks from 1837 to present.**

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