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Shark Attacks: New Record Set In 2015 With 98 Attacks Worldwide

Feb 12, 2016 11:55 AM EST

Shark attacks hit an all-time high last year, with a total of 98 attacks defined as "unprovoked" reported around the world, breaking the previous record of 88 attacks in 2000, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File (ISAF).

More than half (59) of the shark attacks in 2015 occurred in the U.S., and of the total 98 attacks, six were fatal.  Researchers say that such an increase in unprovoked attacks is largely driven by climate change, recovering shark populations and more swimmers, surfers and divers entering the water.

"With shark populations rebounding and more and more people in the ocean, bites are inevitable," George Burgess, director of the ISAF, said in the University's release. "Sharks plus humans equals attacks. As our population continues to rapidly grow and shark populations slowly recover, we're going to see more interactions."

Australia and South Africa joined the U.S. in the top three, with a total of 18 and eight attacks, respectively.

Of the six fatalities, two happened off the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, bringing its total deaths to seven since 2011. Australia, Egypt, New Caledonia and the U.S. each had single fatalities.

Within the U.S., Florida - known to be a magnet for sharks -- had the leading number of attacks, totaling 30.  North and South Carolina followed behind with a total of eight attacks each, and Hawaii came in third with a total of seven - including the country's only fatality. The remaining incidents were scattered throughout California, Texas, Mississippi and New York.

Based on the findings, Burgess expects to see the number of shark attacks to grow higher each year.

"When we visit the sea, we're on their turf," he said.

The ISAF defines an unprovoked attack as an indecent in which humans were not doing anything to encourage the shark to go after them. However, if a person initiates physical contact with the shark and gets bitten, that is considered provoked.

While the number of attacks in 2015 set a new record, the report does provide some good news: In 2000, when the last record was set, 11 people were killed. This means that last year fewer people died following an attack.

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