Shark Attack Statistics

We posted an article about an iPad app that allows users to access Stanford’s shark tracking data a few months ago. While this tool is cool, it is a novelty and it can’t be relied on outside the tracking zones of Stanford’s monitoring buoys. The truth is, there is no foolproof method of knowing when or where a shark will appear, especially when it makes the uncharacteristic trip into shallow waters where people recreate.

According to H. David Baldridge’s 1973 analysis of the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) 89.9% of reported shark attacks were not reported by witnesses or victims of the attacks. Until that point, the ISAF was comprised primarily of hearsay evidence, and the reliability of that evidence seems to be less that substantiated.

In an attempt to better substantiate shark attack claims, the SRC began to collect data on shark attacks. In the 20th century, there were 108 authenticated cases of shark attacks along the Pacific coast of North America according to the SRC. Only one of those cases happened before 1950. Whether due to better publicity or to more conscientious beachgoers, 107 attacks were recorded between 1950 and 2000. Of the 108 reports aggregated by the SRC, only 21% were reported by people who did not witness the actual attacks. This 21% is comprised primarily of biologist interviews and newspaper and magazine articles.

SRC has done a detailed analysis of shark attacks along the Pacific coast. They aggregated many different variables, including the time of day, the time of year, the victim’s activity (e.g. surfing or diving), the depth of the attack, and the species of shark in their analysis. They also keep their information up to date, adding new attacks to their catalog when applicable.

The data can be pretty fascinating. For instance, more attacks have been reported in September than in any other month. Additionally, most victims were either surfing or diving (surprise, surprise).

For a regularly updated list of shark attacks on people, visit here. For an updated list of shark sightings (including attacks on seals), visit here.


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