Sharks attacks drop as recession cuts beach time

Thu Feb 19, 2009 3:44pm EST
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By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - Even the sharks are feeling the impact of the global economic slowdown.

Shark attacks on humans dropped worldwide in 2008 to their lowest level in five years, apparently because the recession has curtailed seaside vacations, University of Florida researchers who compile the annual tally said on Thursday.

They confirmed 59 shark attacks on humans in 2008, down from 71 the previous year and the fewest since 2003.

"I can't help but think that contributing to that reduction may have been the reticence of some people to take holidays and go to the beach for economic reasons," said George Burgess, who directs the International Shark Attack File at the university.

"We noticed similar declines during the recession that followed the events of 2001, despite the fact that human populations continued to rise," he said in a reference to the September 11 attacks.

In recent years, attacks on vacationing tourists have been recorded off beaches in remote parts of the globe, such as Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean, where none was reported in the past, he said.

Four of last year's attacks were fatal -- two in Mexico, one in Australia and one in the United States.

La Nina, a meteorological condition that brings deep ocean creatures closer to shore, probably was a factor in the death of two male surfers and injury of a third that occurred in less than a month along a resort-studded stretch of Mexico's southern Pacific coast, Burgess said.   Continued...

<p>A shark swims in a marine display at an aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa, June 10, 2007. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>