Great white sharks are known as the hunters of the sea. They are one of the most feared creatures on the planet because they have been known to attack humans. Because people cannot typically see a shark coming at them, an attack can be a painful and potentially surprise.
Between 2006-2010, an average of 4.2 fatal shark attacks [involving all types of sharks] occurred each year according to the global statistics.
Great White Shark
Great white sharks might be scary looking creatures and their sharp teeth might do some damage, but the chances of being attacked with a simple visit to the beach are very minimal. With over 200 million visits to the beach in the United States alone and 4 fatalities happening every year from a global perspective, people are 4x more likely to drown at the beach than be attacked by a shark.
- In the United States, there were 106 confirmed, unprovoked great white shark attacks, including 13 fatalities, from 1916 to 2011.
- Of those attacks, 78 of them occurred in California, as did 8 of the fatalities.
- On average, there is only about one great white attack per year.
- Juvenile great white sharks in particular will feed closer to shore because they tend to go after stingrays, fish and smaller animals that are more abundant and easier to catch.
- For every 1 human that is killed by sharks, there are 25 million sharks that are killed by humans.
- Under federal law, great whites are considered a prohibited species. In 2014, California removed the protected status.
Most great white sharks aren’t going to attack. If they do, it is typically the juveniles that are swimming close to the shore because they’re hungry. A human next to a hungry shark might not always be the best situation. Even so, the average shark isn’t going to attack a human. As in a 2013 California incident, the reason behind the attack that occurred was the fact that the shark had been hooked by an angler and it was attempting to free itself. Although shark sightings can be a daily occurrence in southern California and lifeguards can sometimes be seen chasing sharks with jet skis to make sure they stay away, the statistics are clear: it’s a very, very rare incident for a shark to create a fatality.
The United States is a Popular Place
- There were 116 worldwide shark attacks with 59 of those occurring in the United States in 2013.
- Of the 13 fatal shark attacks in 2013, encompassing all sharks, Brazil, Australia and the US each counted two deaths.
- The great white shark averages 15 feet in length and usually weighs at least 2.5 tons.
- Great whites can reach speeds up to 15 mph.
- Great whites use their speed and coloring to help them hunt.
- From the time that data was collected on shark attacks, which goes back to the 16th century, the waters of the United States have seen 2x the amount of shark attacks compared to the rest of the world combined.
- The continent of Europe has seen less than 50 total shark attacks throughout all of documented history.
Part of the difficulty in preventing great white shark attacks when they may occur is that the creature can be hard to see under the surface of the water. When that is combined with a higher overall prey animal population along shorelines, such as seals, the temptation for a shark to come in for a tasty meal becomes greater. In California, where shark attacks seem to be the most common, the amount of stranded animals with shark bites has been increasing. The numbers of human shark attacks have doubled since 2011. Is it because sharks are become more courageous as they hunt? Are humans venturing further away from shore? Or is their food supply more abundant along human habitation areas? When more humans enter the water, then there is a greater chance for a shark attack, plain and simple.
Could A Single Great White Be Responsible For Multiple Attacks?
- The average great white shark has the ability to live for an average of 60 years.
- The total number of unprovoked great white shark attacks that have been confirmed in history: about 300.
- Surfers are the most likely target of a great white shark, accounting for about 60% of the total number of confirmed attacks in history.
- Swimmers account for more than 20% of the other confirmed reports throughout history.
- Sharks are territorial creatures, preferring to stay in one area to hunt as long as food is available.
- Three juvenile great white sharks were observed for several months in 2013 swimming around the same beach area after a potential attack had occurred.
Statistically, if you want to go out into the water and not be attacked by a shark, the best way to do it is to go diving. Divers have documented the least amount of shark attacks throughout history. Considering many divers will go down into cages or free dive specifically so they can encounter great white sharks, that’s an interesting statistic to consider. All board sports are including with the 60% of surfers, so any kneeboarding, wakboarding, or inflatables that are being utilized would be included as well. The bottom line is this: the further out in the water you go, the higher your risk of being attacked by a great white shark. Although the odds are 1 in 3.5 million that it will happen, it’s still a chance.
What Are The Great White Shark Facts You Need to Know?
- The ancestry of great white sharks is thought to date back more than 400 million years.
- Many scientists believe that great white sharks are intelligent, highly inquisitive creatures.
- The great white shark is the top predator throughout the world’s oceans, although they tend to stay in subtropical or temperate waters.
- A great white shark that swam from South Africa to Australia holds the record for the longest recorded migration of the shark species.
- The great white shark has 300 teeth in total, forming up to seven rows.
- If there were just a single drop of blood floating in 10 billion drops of water, a great white shark would be able to smell it.
- The retina of its eye is divided into two areas – one adapted for day vision, the other for low-light and night.
The great white shark is a predator that is built for getting the job done. They are a top predator because they have six very highly refined senses that included electromagnetism. These sharks can actually detect the electric fields in the water and the various currents. Some of the most common advice that is given if people are in the grips of a shark during an attack is to punch the shark in the snout or eye. Great white sharks are actually able to roll their eyes back into their sockets if they feel like they could be threatened. This means that punching the eye might not be very effective unless you can catch this massive creature off-guard somehow.
How Could You Protect Yourself Against a Shark Attack?
- The average great white shark isn’t going to attack at first. It will nudge a person to determine what animal it could be first, then attack if it thinks it is prey.
- The teeth of a shark have a unique set of nerve endings in them that make them sensitive to the fat content of an animal. This makes human flesh less appealing because it contains less flat.
- Passive action, like pretending to be dead, is considered to be an ineffective defensive tactic.
- Always take off shiny things and avoid going out into the water if you have any active bleeding because of the sensitivity that great whites have to blood.
- Leave animals off of surfboards or kayaks because if sharks are around, they and you will become an easy target.
Great white sharks are certainly creatures that can frighten us, but the reality is that most shark bites, though often devastating, aren’t fatal. In December 2014, a surfer was bitten by a juvenile male great white shark while surfing and although his leg wound was serious, it didn’t hit any arteries. He was able to back to shore, tied off the wound, and was transported to a hospital so that the wound could be properly cared for. With 200 million people hitting the beach and 2 fatalities total, that’s a 1 in 100 million chance from 2013 great white shark attack statistics of something happening. You’re just as likely to win the lottery as you are to have something really bad happen to you at the beach, so enjoy a beautiful day, take out the surfboard, and have some fun.