Sharks made news this with two reported attacks on humans in the surf near Jacksonville. Neither resulted in severe injuries, thankfully.
Despite scary headlines, shark attacks are down.
In 2017, 66 unprovoked shark attacks were reported around the globe, a decrease from the annual average of 84 attacks and also below the 88 attacks in 2017. Sharks killed four people in 2018, which is below the average of six, according to data from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File as reported by USA Today.
Shark attacks in Florida — the state with the most attacks annually — get a lot of attention. But attacks occur in South Carolina waters as well.
The state is third among 23 coastal states over the past decade for the number of shark attacks, according to SafeWise, which looked at 20 years of data from the Global Shark Attack File.
Even with that rank, the number of attacks is few. South Carolina has had 38 shark attacks over the past 10 years. None was fatal.
The state has not had a fatal shark attack since 1883, according to statistics from the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 91 million people swim in the ocean, lakes and rivers. Only about 44 people are attacked by sharks each year.
A Myrtle Beach tourism website says the odds of getting bitten are one in 4 million at their beach.
Many encounters with sharks are the result of mistaken identity. When the shark realizes it has bitten something other than a fish or other ocean prey, it most often lets go.
No matter, the fear of being bitten or killed by a shark is an irrationally terrible one for humans. And it is that fear that often prompts the wrong reaction.
Man is killing sharks at a rate millions of times greater than sharks are injuring man. Though sharks killed four people in 2018, people killed about 100 million sharks last year. Most sharks are killed by commercial fishermen for their fins and flesh.
So great is the danger to the shark population that regulations on shark fishing in South Carolina waters are more stringent than the average fisherman realizes.
In South Carolina waters, fishermen can keep one Atlantic sharpnose and one bonnethead per day. Some other species are limited to one shark per boat per day. Many species — including tiger and white sharks — cannot be kept at all.
News about shark attacks is sure to yield surprise at catch limits on the creatures. But during Shark Week, realize they are needed.
Repeating a quote from The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald: “Allowing man-made hysteria to overrule regulations set into place to conserve these valuable members of the ecosystem would be a horrible mistake. Too often, our first response is to eradicate anything that causes us fear or trouble. Leave regulations in place and help conserve what is left of our wild world.”
— The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg