Coconuts Called Deadlier Than Sharks

But coverage wasn't completely off the mark. The researchers concede that shark attacks have risen in recent years as the number of people going to the beach has increased. Data has shown that beach attendance in the United States has increased by about 10 percent over the last 10 years and the number of shark-human incidences has increased by nearly the same rate.

Crowded beaches, they said, guarantee encounters.

"Like summer thunderstorms, there will be more shark incidents this summer," said Hueter.

In fact, Burgess said there are likely many more close encounters every summer than are actually recorded — or even noticed.

"Most of us have probably swum within 15 feet of a shark and didn't know it," he said. "Most of the time, sharks don't want to have anything to do with us."

Rebecca Lent, of NOAA's fisheries management division, argued that more concern should be placed on saving the species than fearing them. She said that populations of sharks, which date back more than 400 million years in the fossil record, have dropped dramatically since the mid-1970s due to overfishing and interference by boats in the animal's migratory routes.

Avoiding Jaws

To avoid encounters with sharks this summer, Burgess offered a few tips:

Avoid splashing.

Don't go into the water while bleeding.

Don't wear shiny jewelry while swimming in the ocean.

Swim with other people.

Avoid murky waters where sharks seek out smaller fish for prey.

Don't swim at dusk, when sharks are more likely to be feeding.

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