The risk of being bitten by a shark has fallen dramatically in the last 65 years, according to a new study from Stanford University.
For beachgoers along the California coast, the chance of being bitten by a shark has dropped a staggering 91 percent since 1950. Scuba divers now have a 1-in-36-million chance of being bitten by a shark. Researchers attribute the drop in bites to declining great white populations and a shift in great white distribution as seal populations have grown and traveled.
Research also suggests that culling shark populations is an ineffective way to protect humans. Biologists point to effective marine management strategies as a way to re-direct sharks away from human activity. For example, effective management of elephant seal colonies has concentrated sharks near their prey of choice - not humans.
"The more we understand about shark ecology, behavior and distribution, the better able we are to create effective guidelines and help people make informed decisions," explains study lead author Francesco Ferretti, a postdoctoral scholar in biology at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. "Analyzing global shark bite statistics has no ecological cost and virtually no financial burden when compared to shark control programs. By contrast, ineffective cull programs can cost millions of dollars and deplete already endangered populations."
The study, "Reconciling Predator Conservation with Public Safety," will be published later this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.