BLOG: Shark attacks uncommon, not unheard of, along Gulf Coast

Shark attacks by coastal area, 2001-2013
The left axis shows shark attacks, the right axis shows the coastal area of Gulf Coast states.

As reports of sharks swimming in the Alabama Gulf Coast started flowing in to FOX10 News, we dug deeper to see the history of shark attacks in the area.

In Alabama, in the past 12 years, five people have been attacked by sharks; none of the attacks have been fatal according to data released by the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), a project housed on the Florida Museum of Natural History website.

Alabama shark attacks
This graphic shows the number of shark attacks in Alabama since 2001, along with the fatalities resulting from those attacks.

In Florida waters, the story is different, of nearly 300 shark attacks there since 2001, three have been fatal. As for the other Gulf States, Texas has seen 18 attacks with no deaths. Louisiana  and Mississippi don’t appear in the ISAF data for that period.

Since 2001, of 477 people attacked by sharks in the most active areas in the US, 12 have died.

Florida has 1,350 miles of coastline, the largest amount of the lower 48 states. Similarly, states with a greater amount of coastline are the source of the greatest number of shark attacks. Since 1837, records of unprovoked shark attacks show that Florida has seen the greatest number of attacks, at 687 followed by Hawaii (129) and California (110).

Florida Shark Attacks
This graphic shows the number of shark attacks in Florida since 2001, along with the fatalities resulting from those attacks.

Florida has 1,350 miles of coastline, the largest amount of the lower 48 states.

Similarly, states with a greater amount of coastline are the source of the greatest number of shark attacks. Since 1837, records of unprovoked shark attacks show that Florida has seen the greatest number of attacks, at 687, followed by Hawaii (129) and California (110).

Shark attacks by coastal area, 2001-2013
The left axis shows shark attacks, the right axis shows the coastal area of the most active states for shark attacks.

The data show attacks are more common on Florida’s Atlantic coast than in Northwest Florida counties, i.e. those along the Gulf of Mexico. Of attacks there since 1882, Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa, Walton and Monroe counties account for 18 of them, and two fatalities.

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Most recently, in 2010, a surfer was killed off the Atlantic Coast of Martin County, Fla.

The latest fatality in Florida’s Gulf waters occurred in Walton County in 2005 when a 14-year-old  girl was killed while using a boogie board around 200 yards offshore near the Sandestin resort, according to CNN.

Alabama’s most recent shark attack was on an Orange Beach man who was riding a wave runner.

In 2011, FOX10 News reported on that attack. Officials there initially blamed it on a barracuda, but later said that a shark attacked the rider who had fallen off into the water. Watch the videos below for more info.

More shark attack data from the ISAF:

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