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Risk of shark attacks has plummeted since the 1950s

You are 1,800 times more likely to die from drowning than a shark attack, a new study off the coast of California has revealed. The research, which is due to be published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, has shown the risk of being attacked by a great white shark in the area has decreased by more than 90 per cent since the 1950s.

The researchers from Stanford University analysed data on great white shark attacks in California from 1950 to 2013 and discovered that although the average number of attacks per year has increased the individual risk has decreased. This is because the human population in the region has nearly tripled in size from seven million in 1950 to 21 million today. As a result the probability of being involved in a shark attack has dramatically reduced.

“We have recently seen an increase in shark attacks in some areas, like North Carolina and Western Australia, but you need to weigh that with the number of people going into the ocean and the intensity of that use,” said co-author Francesco Ferretti.

The spree of shark attacks off the coast of Carolina attracted international media coverage and created a wave of fear among beachgoers. Great white sharks have also been attacking boats with recent incidents in New York and New Zealand.

However, Ferretti argues that reducing the number of sharks is not a solution to preventing attacks.

“[Culling] is very expensive and doesn’t make people any safer,” he said. “Most of the time such culls don't kill the sharks that actually pose a danger for people.”

Ferretti believes greater emphasis and education on safe swimming practices is the solution to reducing the number of attacks further.

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