Position Statement - Shark Attacks

Of over 500 species of shark, very few are considered to be potentially dangerous to man. Incidents of people being bitten by sharks are extremely rare – yet ignorance and sensationalism has caused the JAWS myth to be widely perceived as reality.

It is often difficult to identify the shark species involved in incidents, and in some cases the wrong species is blamed. The size and shape of the wound gives some indication of the species and size of shark involved however it is often difficult to say with any degree of certainty.

Three shark species; the White Shark, Tiger Shark, and Bull Shark, are most frequently associated with serious incidents yet numerous other varieties of shark will potentially bite if they feel threatened.

Most negative shark/human incidents occur in coastal areas - in shallow, murky waters where sharks are hunting, such as river mouths and off beaches, as well as in places where the seabed drops away into deeper water. According to records, the majority of incidents occur in waters above 12ºC, with 80% of shark incidents occurring in the tropics and subtropics.

There have been no unprovoked attacks on water users in British waters since records began in 1847, however two fishermen received bites whilst removing hooks from the mouths of sharks they had caught.

The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) is internationally recognised as the definitive source of scientifically accurate information on shark attacks and their 2011 Shark Attack Summary can be read here.