The death of a 13-year-old surfer, killed in a shark attack off a French island in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, has many wondering if sharks are becoming more aggressive. That's not the case, experts say.
"If we look at the number of shark attacks in any given place in any given year and compare that to population growth in those areas, we find that shark attacks match the growth curve of the human population in that region," George H. Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told NBC News. "As long as the human population continues to increase, we can expect to see numerically more shark bites."
Shark populations are also growing, as sharks that were once overfished have started to recover. In 2014, according to Burgess' latest International Shark Attack File report, that there were 72 "unprovoked" attacks on humans by sharks, with two-thirds taking place in the United States. Burgess said the teen surfer was probably killed by a bull or tiger shark, and that surfers are the top group attacked by sharks. "That's chiefly because, one, those folks spend more time in sea in areas where those sharks are most common, and second, the activity itself provides essentially a provocation with the kicking of feet and splashing of hands, which are very attractive to sharks," he said.
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