In a milestone that could make even the most avid aqua lovers pause at the shore, 2015 was a record year for shark attacks, with 98 unprovoked incidents, according to the International Shark Attack File housed at the University of Florida. Previously, the record for most shark attacks in a year was 88 in 2000.
Despite this increased number, though, know this: There were only six fatalities, which is still in tune with the average in past years.
So, to what can we attribute the spike in shark attacks?
Well, the sharks aren’t the culprits here, despite what certain movies would like to tell us. Humans aren’t at fault either. The increased rate of shark attacks is likely due to population growth on both sides, according to experts.
“Sharks plus humans equals attacks. As our population continues to rapidly grow and shark populations slowly recover, we’re going to see more interactions,” said George Burgess, curator of the shark attack data at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Additionally, oceans are warming due to El Niño, as CNN notes, allowing sharks to explore more areas. Burgess said that may help explain a shark attack that occurred in New York last year.
In total, 59 of the 98 attacks took place in the United States. Florida (with 30) and the Carolinas (with 8 each) topped the list with the highest number of attacks in the country.
The shark attacks that occurred in the Sunshine State were recorded in the following counties: Brevard (8), Volusia (7), Duval (4), Palm Beach and St. Johns (2 each), and Broward, Collier, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Nassau, and St. Lucie (1 each).
The only U.S. attack that resulted in a fatality occurred in Hawaii. The other fatalities were confined to Australia, New Caledonia, Egypt and the island of Réunion.
Shark attacks will most likely continue to gain momentum over the next few years, Burgess said. That is not to say we should blacklist the ocean forever, but it is important to be cautious while in the water.
The Florida Museum of Natural History offered the following tips: Avoid the water at dusk and dawn; refrain from going swimming in fish-prone areas; and avoid diving in with open wounds. Finally, always be alert while in the ocean, and ultimately, remember that the ocean is their domain, not ours.