Around the world, sharks attacked humans 80 times last year, and seven people were killed, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File.
The death toll was lower than it was in 2011 but higher than the average of 4.4 from 2001 to 2010.
Shark attacks on humans in the United States (US) hit their highest level in more than a decade last year, but researchers said that it does not mean sharks are getting more aggressive.
The US recorded 53 shark attacks in 2012, matching the highest yearly total since the same number was registered in 2000, according to the University of Florida’s report.
The number of US attacks in 2012 marked an increase from 31 reported in 2011, although worldwide, the number was only slightly higher at 80 compared to 78 in 2011, according to the university’s annual International Shark Attack File report released on Monday.
George Burgess, who leads the effort to compile the report, said that shark attacks fell during the last decade, a trend he said was likely tied to economic reasons.
“I think the economy has played a major role in the sense with the downturn in the economy, fewer people had the ability to take holidays and visit the beach,” he said.
Last year, “the upturn in the economy may have helped,” Burgess said. “I think more folks went ahead with their vacation plans.”
In the United States, which typically accounts for about two-thirds of the global total, the highest number was registered in Florida, where there were 26 attacks last year.
The state has a high concentration of sharks because its warm waters are home to species not found in cooler regions.
Hawaii had the second-highest number of attacks in the United States with 10.
Globally, Australia ranked second with 14 attacks, followed by South Africa with four.
There were a total of seven fatalities around the world from shark attacks last year, including three in South Africa and two in Australia.
As in previous years, surfers were the victims of most of the world’s attacks at 60 per cent, the report said.
Meanwhile, about 150 friends and family of a man, Adam Strange, killed in a shark attackwrote messages to him in the sand yesterday and stepped into the water at a New Zealand beach to say goodbye.
Strange, 46, was an award-winning television and short film director and the father of a two-year-old girl.
He was training for an endurance swim near popular Muriwai Beach on Wednesday when he was attacked by the shark that was possibly 14 feet (4 metres) long.
Surf lifesavers say they are convinced it was a great white shark.
Police attempting to save Strange raced out in inflatable boats and fired gunshots at the enormous predator, which they say rolled away and disappeared.
Police were able to recover Strange’s body, and lifeguards believe the shark is dead.
Muriwai will remain closed for swimming until tomorrow after the fatal attack, one of only about a dozen in New Zealand in the past 180 years.
The deceased’s friend, Adam Stevens, said that yesterday’s beach service was run by indigenous Maori who removed the “tapu” or spiritual restriction at the beach.
Stevens said that it was a “perfect tribute” to a man who spent much of his time swimming and surfing.
“He was a very robust, big, barrel-chested surfer,” Stevens said. “He was basically completely obsessed with the ocean, with paddle boards and body surfing, everything. His garage was like a museum of surf craft.”
According to Police Inspector Shawn Rutene, Strange was about 200 metres (650 feet) from the shore when he was attacked by a shark that police estimated was up to four metres (14 feet) long.
Stevens said that his friend had planned to swim about 1 1/2kilometres (one mile) Wednesday as he tested new goggles and trained for an annual endurance swim from Auckland to Rangitoto Island.
The 4.5-kilometre (2.8-mile) swim takes place on Sunday.
Pio Mose, who was fishing at the beach Wednesday, told the New Zealand Herald newspaper he saw Strange struggle against the huge shark.
Mose yelled at Strange to swim to the rocks, but it was too late.
“All of a sudden, there was blood everywhere,” Mose said. “I was shaking, scared, panicked.”
About 200 people had been enjoying the beach during the Southern Hemisphere summer at the time of the attack.
Stevens said that he has been comforting Strange’s wife, Meg, and their daughter since the accident.
He said that the girl is too young to understand what has happened, but is aware of the emotions.
Stevens said that his friend, whom he had known about 15 years, was very creative and always positive.
“He lived in the moment brilliantly. It was completely infectious,” Stevens said. “He feasted on the details.”
Stevens said that he and Strange worked together for a number of years at a film production company, Silverscreen.
On his site, Strange said that he studied as a graphic designer and art director before getting into directing. He said that he had worked on commercials all over the world and had been a finalist for a number of advertising awards.
Strange won a Crystal Bear award at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival for a short film called Aphrodite’s Farm, a magical tale set on a dairy farm in the 1930s.
Chairman of the Muriwai Lifeguard Service, Tim Jago, said that a number of beaches near Muriwai reopened yesterday and that Muriwai would open for beach visits today and then swimming tomorrow.
He said that the closure at this point is to give surf lifesavers a break and that he does not fear a repeat attack.
“We are quite comfortable the beast is dead,” he said. “Footage from a helicopter indicates that when the shark rolled over and rolled off, it also sank to bottom.”
Jago said that witnesses spotted one or two other large sharks circling at the time of the attack, but that no sharks have been seen in the area since then.
Clinton Duffy, a shark expert with the Department of Conservation, estimated that only 12 to 14 people have been killed by sharks in New Zealand since record keeping began in the 1830s.
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