Shark expert reflects on record year for attacks

George Burgess is Florida’s Shark expert. He said more people were attacked by sharks in 2015, than ever before.  “This year, 2015 was an all-time high,” said Burgess, the director of Florida Program for Shark Research.

According to data from the International Shark attack file, there were 98 unprovoked shark attacks recorded worldwide.  Those files are kept at the University of Florida. Thirty of those attacks happened in Florida alone. The big question is why?

eorge Burgess said,  “Warmer waters, because of El Nino, on top of global water temperatures, because of global climate change, means that sharks have been able to move farther North and move faster.”

Burgess is one of the most well-known shark attack experts in the world. He says the warmer waters also draw more people. He says six people were killed by a shark in 2015 -- one of those was in Hawaii. That is not an increase. “I think it’s probably reasonable to assume that next year, we’ll move downwards again and sort of go back to the continuing trend, which is still going to be upward, but not as high as what we had this year.”

To reduce your shark attack or bite chances, Burgess said don’t swim at night, dawn or dusk. Don’t swim where people are fishing or seabirds are feeding. Don’t wear your shiny jewelry in the water. If you are attacked, hit the shark on the nose, claw at its eyes and gills to scare it away, get out and seek medical help.

Bottom line, Burgess said don’t be afraid. Get in the water if you want to, because your odds of being bitten by a shark really aren’t that good.