Florida recorded 23 shark attacks in 2006, continuing its status as the world's shark attack capital, according to a University of Florida study.
The number jumped from the 19 cases reported in 2005, but the state averaged 33 between 2000 and 2003, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the university's Florida Museum of Natural History.
"Within Florida, Volusia County and particularly New Smyrna Beach is the hot spot," Burgess said in a statement. The county increased from nine in 2005 to 12 in 2006. "This area on a square mile basis has more attacks than anyplace else in the world."
The total number of attacks worldwide was 62, one more than in 2005. The number of deaths stayed at four, well below the 11 fatalities that came with 79 attacks in 2000.
Fewer sharks are venturing near shore, and more of them, along with the fish they prey on, are being killed, Burgess said.
"It's really quite remarkable when you have only four people a year die in the mouth of a shark and puts in perspective how small shark attack is as a phenomenon," Burgess said.
The number of attacks in the United States, the world's leader, dipped slightly from 40 in 2005 to 38 in 2006, reports AP.
Elsewhere in the world, Burgess tracked seven attacks in Australia, four in South Africa, three in Brazil, two in the Bahamas and one each in Fiji, Guam, Mexico, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, La Reunion, Spain and Tonga.
The four fatalities were in Australia, Brazil, La Reunion and Tonga.
Many developing countries are also making strides in improving medical care and beach safety, while many people are getting smarter about where and when to get into the water, Burgess said.
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