10 people killed in unprovoked shark attacks last year, report finds

There were 69 unprovoked shark bites in 2023, a Florida-based database found.

February 5, 2024, 9:00 AM

Ten people died from unprovoked shark attacks globally in 2023, a slight uptick over the five-year average, according to a Florida-based database that tracks the rare events.

After investigating 121 alleged shark-human interactions worldwide last year, the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File determined there were 69 unprovoked shark bites, most of which occurred in the United States and Australia, according to a new report released on Monday. That number is in line with the five-year average of 63 incidents annually from 2018 to 2022, the report said.

Twenty-two shark attacks last year were determined to be intentionally or unintentionally provoked, the report said. Among those, there were four fatalities, it said.

A great white shark
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Provoked bites occur when a human "initiates interaction" with a shark, such as through spearfishing or attempting to feed it, the report said. Unprovoked bites are defined as those occurring on live humans in the shark's natural habitat with no human provocation.

"We're biologists and so we want to know what the natural behavior of these animals is," Gavin Naylor, director of the International Shark Attack File, told ABC News. "When they come closer to shore, is it associated with a full moon? Is it associated with fish spawning?"

The five-year global average for unprovoked fatalities is six, compared to 10 in 2023, the report said.

2023 Unprovoked Shark Attacks Globally
ABC News, Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File

"The most conspicuous thing seems to be the number of fatalities," Naylor said of the 2023 findings, though he emphasized the increase in unprovoked fatal attacks does not mean much statistically due to the small numbers represented.

Three of the unprovoked fatal bites involved white sharks attacking surfers in Australia, according to the report. The attacks occurred in waters off the Eyre Peninsula, a remote surfing destination in Southern Australia.

"We've had blips in fatalities up and down each year, but I do think that the white shark populations are doing a little bit better," Naylor said, pointing to healthy seal populations, which sharks feed on.

North Neptune Island, an area rich in birdlife, also seals and Great white sharks. Neptune Islands Group Marine Park, off Eyre Peninsula, Australia.
Universal Images Group via Getty

The U.S. saw the largest number of confirmed unprovoked shark attacks globally last year, with 36, according to the report. That is down from 41 in 2022.

Florida reported the most unprovoked bites in 2023, with 16, the database found, followed by Hawaii (eight) and New York (four).

After the U.S., Australia saw the second-highest number of unprovoked shark attacks last year, with 15.

2023 Unprovoked Shark Attacks in the US
ABC News, Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File

Naylor said there are likely shark attacks not included in the database, such as ones that were never reported to officials or covered by the media.

"I think that we do a good job of collecting data for countries with infrastructure that report these kinds of things, and so then it's comparable one year to the next because we're dealing with apples-to-apples comparisons," he said. "But do I think that we're catching every single bite that happens around the world every year? Absolutely not."

The odds of being bitten are incredibly low, the report noted. Though to limit risk, it recommends staying close to shore, avoiding swimming at dawn or dusk and avoiding excessive splashing.

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