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    Shark attack reports break record

Thursday, 8 February 2001 12:58 (ET)

GAINESVILLE, Fla., Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Reports of shark attacks hit an all-time high of 79 worldwide in 2000, including 10 deaths, the International Shark Attack File showed Thursday.

The increase was caused primarily by better reporting, particularly on the Internet. The attacks were the most frequent since the file was established in 1958, said George Burgess, director of the file.

The figures, compiled at the University of Florida, compared with 58 attacks in 1999 and the average during the 1990s of 54.

The biggest increases were in the United States, where they jumped from 37 to 51, and in Florida where they rose from 25 to 34.

In addition to better reporting, Burgess said the increase was partly a result of increased intrusion on shark habitat by a worldwide population that spent more time in the water.

"Attacks are basically an odds game based on how many hours you are in the water," he said. "Some of these attacks are beginning to pop up in far-flung corners of the Earth as tourists can afford to vacation in areas they wouldn't normally have gone to in the past.

"Unfortunately, lots of these tourists gleefully enter waters that natives -- who learn over the years where to swim and not to swim -- might choose not to go into," he said.

He said some of those locales were Kiribati, the Galapagos, Fiji and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. He said many victims help with the file by looking for information on shark attacks on the Internet and finding the file's Web site. He said they often e-mail their experiences.

Internationally, Australia had seven attacks followed by South Africa with five, the Bahamas with four and Reunion Island, New Guinea and Tanzania with two each.

The 10 fatal attacks compared with six in 1999, but matched the average for the decade of 12.7. Three deaths were reported from Australia, two from Tanzania and one each in Fiji, Japan, New Caledonia, New Guinea and the United States.

The only U.S. fatality was Thadeus Kubinski, who was attacked Aug. 30 in St. Petersburg, Fla. He jumped off his dock and landed near a feeding shark.

Other states reporting attacks last year were North Carolina with five, California with three and Alabama, Hawaii and Texas with two each. Reporting one attack for the year were Louisiana, South Carolina and Puerto Rico.

Swimmers and waders were the most frequent victims at 46 percent, followed by surfers and windsurfers with 32 percent, divers and snorkelers at 18 percent, body surfers at 3 percent and people just entering the water at 1 percent.

-- Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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