Originally created 02/24/02

2001 was not a record year of shark attacks



GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A study released Monday shows shark attacks for 2001 were actually down from the previous year, despite a spate of widely publicized attacks.

There were 76 unprovoked shark attacks around the world last year, compared to 85 in 2000, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File. Fatal attacks dropped to five from 12 the previous year.

Shark attacks in waters off the United States increased by one to 55; Florida, which leads the nation, had 37, one less than in 2000, said George Burgess, who heads the research center.

"Last year was anything but an average year, but that's because it was more like the summer of the media feeding frenzy," Burgess said.

Most of the injuries were minor. But shark attacks figured prominently in media coverage for weeks, intensifying in July after an 8-year-old was attacked by a bull shark in the waters off Pensacola.

The shark bit off Jesse Arbogast's right arm, but the boy's uncle wrestled the shark out of the water, retrieved the arm and surgeons reattached it. Severe blood loss, however, left the boy brain damaged.

Weeks later, a 10-year-old boy was fatally mauled in the Virginia Beach surf. Two days after that, a shark killed a man and gravely injured his girlfriend off a North Carolina beach.

Burgess said the gradual upswing in attacks over the past decades is due to humans spending more time in the water and more reliable reporting when there is an attack.

On the Net:

International Shark Attack File: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/stati stics/statistics.htm