The international shark attack file (ISAF), based at the Florida Museum of Natural History and considered the worldwide authority on human-shark encounters, recently published their 2008 Worldwide Shark Attack Summary.
The report identifies a drop in unprovoked shark attacks over the last year, with 59 in 2008 compared with 71 in 2007. That said the report also is careful to put this data into its historical context, showing that the number of attacks have generally increased over the last century.
While some may take this as simply evidence of the aggressive nature of sharks, a closer look at related data confirms that such an immediate conclusion is far from being accurate. Rather, the fact that there are simply far more people who are far more interested in using the ocean for both leisure and trade than there ever have been, means that even with the decimation of many shark populations, the chance of an encounter between human and shark has greatly increased over the proceeding decades. The other factor is the huge increase in the ability of both the media and the general public to disseminate information relating to shark encounters, particularly with the rise of the internet. A large amount of shark encounters will now reach the authorities at the ISAF which would have previously slipped under the radar.
Read the full report here.