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Unprovoked shark attacks dropped in 2016: International Shark Attack File

Unprovoked shark attacks across the world dropped last year after a record-breaking 2015. More than half of the attacks involved board sports like surfing, boogie boarding and paddle boarding.

Unprovoked shark attacks across the world dropped in 2016 after a record-breaking number the year before, the International Shark Attack File announced on Tuesday.

The University of Florida institution said there were a confirmed 81 unprovoked attacks in 2016, down from 98 attacks in 2015.

File curator George Burgess said global attacks remained on a slow upward trend as the human population grew and aquatic sports became more popular.

"A shark attack is a human phenomenon," Burgess said. "Sharks are a natural part of the ecosystem. The ocean is a foreign environment to humans, and when we enter the sea, we're entering a wilderness."

He said the 2015 spike in attacks was partly caused by El Nino-warmed waters.

Four of the 2016 attacks were fatal, with two in Australia and two in the French territory of New Caledonia.

Most attacks in US

The file found that 58 percent of the attacks involved board sports like surfing, boogie boarding and paddle boarding, which disturb the water in a way that could draw sharks.

The US led the tally with 53 attacks, most of them in Florida. It was followed by Australia with 15, New Caledonia with four and Indonesia with two. Single incidents were reported in the Bahamas, Brazil, Japan, La Reunion, South Africa, Spain and Sri Lanka.

The International Shark Attack File defined "unprovoked attacks" as "incidents where an attack on a live human occurs in the shark's natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark." 

It excluded incidents involving "sharks and divers in public aquariums or research holding-pens, shark-inflicted scavenge damage to already dead humans (most often drowning victims), attacks on boats, and other incidents involving provocation by humans."

The file investigated 150 incidents of alleged shark-human interaction, of which 81 were confirmed.

aw/cmk (AP)

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