COCOA BEACH, Florida - 2016 could surpass 2015 for a record-breaking number of shark attacks in the U.S., according to shark expert George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.
2015 broke the all-time record for the most number of shark attacks in a year. The 2015 yearly total of 98 unprovoked shark attacks surpassed the previous high of 88 recorded in the year 2000, dubbed "Year of the Shark." But 2016 could break that record.
"We should have more bites this year than last," Burgess told Reuters.
Burgess attributed the increase of shark attacks to a recovering shark population.
A record number of sharks were found during NOAA's coastal shark research survey along the U.S. East Coast in 2015. More than 2,800 sharks were captured and tagged - the most in the survey’s 29-year history.
Great White Sharks, which suffered a population decline in the 70's through 80's off of the U.S. Atlantic Coast, have also seen a recent rebound.
The United States had the most amount of shark attacks in the world last year with a total of 59 unprovoked attacks, surpassing the previous U.S. record of 53 shark attacks in 2012 and 2000.
More Shark Attacks Occur Off East Central Florida
Florida has the most (51%) of the unprovoked attacks in the United States and 30.6% of the world's total. Brevard County, which includes Cocoa Beach, Florida, had the most amount of shark attacks in the Sunshine State in 2015 with 8, followed closely by neighboring Volusia County (Daytona Beach area) with 7. Both counties have the closest beaches to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, making the beachside destinations popular among tourists.
Photo Credit: Greg Skomal / Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries