MIAMI - There were 79 unprovoked shark attacks around the world in 2010, the highest number recorded in a decade, according to researchers in Florida.
As usual, it was the United States that led the world with 36 incidents, followed by Australia with 14, South Africa with eight, and then Vietnam and Egypt both with six.
The International Shark Attack File, put together by experts at the University of Florida, highlighted the unusual occurrence in Egypt of five attacks within five days in early December, one of them fatal. Four of the attacks were attributed to two individual sharks.
"The growth in shark attack numbers does not necessarily mean that there is an increase in the rate of shark attack, rather it most likely is reflective of the ever-increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans, which increases the odds of interaction between the two affected parties," the report said.
The number of shark attacks was up more than 25 percent on the 63 recorded in 2009. To find more over a 12-month period you have to go back to 2000, when 80 were confirmed.
At six, the number of fatalities was slightly above average for the past decade.
The figures also showed a marked decline in Florida, the US state where shark attacks are most common.
In 2007, the sun-soaked coasts of the heavily touristic state saw 31 attacks. In 2008 this dropped to 28, then 18 in 2009 and just 13 last year.
"Florida had its lowest total since 2004, which was 12," lead researcher George Burgess said.
"Maybe it's a reflection of the downturn in the economy and the number of tourists coming to Florida, or the amount of money native Floridians can spend taking holidays and going to the beach."
Despite the general rarity of shark attacks, Burgess had some words of caution for beach-lovers.
"The reality is, going into the sea is a wilderness experience," he said.
"You're visiting a foreign environment, it's not a situation where you're guaranteed success."
Image: Hermanus Backpackers / via Flickr