Shark attacks on mariners performing their jobs is very rare, but that doesn’t mean sharks aren’t around where workboats operate. When boats are tied off to a rig in the Gulf of Mexico or CTVs are delivering maintenance crews to offshore wind farms in the Atlantic, there are plenty of sharks around. When tour boats full of whale watchers are at sea, sharks can usually be seen as well. Just stay out of the water.

Which brings us to the Discovery Channel’s 36th annual Shark Week that began Sunday and runs through next Saturday, July 13. That fact got me to thinking about how many shark attacks there were in 2023 (Obviously, final 2024 statistics won’t be available until 2025.).

Florida Museum of Natural History’s 2023 International Shark Attack File investigated 120 “alleged” shark-human encounters across the world. In fact, only 16 are alleged or unconfirmed, while 104 are confirmed.

The 104 lay out this way: unprovoked bites — 69; provoked bites — 22; boat bites — 9; scavenge (when a shark bites a human body after it’s dead — 2; public aquarium — 1; no assignment — 1. The mysterious other.

“Unprovoked bites are defined as incidents in which a bite on a live human occurs in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark,” the report said.

“Provoked bites occur when a human initiates interaction with a shark in some way,” the files authors said. “These include instances when divers are bitten after harassing or trying to touch sharks, bites on spearfisherman, bites on people attempting to feed sharks, bites occurring while unhooking or removing a shark from a fishing net and so forth.”

The 69 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks are slightly above average. Of the 69, the U.S. led the world with 36 (two deaths), followed by Australia with 15 (four deaths), New Caledonia with 3 (one death), Brazil with 3 (no deaths), Egypt with 2 (one death), South Africa with 2 (no deaths), Bahamas with 1 (one death), Mexico with 1 (one death), and Costa Rica, Columbia, New Zealand, Seychelles, Galapagos, and Turks and Caicos with one each and no deaths.

So, there were more unprovoked shark bites in Egyptian waters than in the Bahamas? Who would have thought?

The U.S. state with the most unprovoked shark attacks was Florida with 16, followed by Hawaii with 8, North Carolina with 3, and California, South Carolina, and New Jersey with one each.

“Consistent with long-term trends, the U.S. recorded the most unprovoked shark bites in 2023, with 36 confirmed cases. This is slightly lower than the 41 incidents recorded in 2022. The 36 cases represent 52% of the worldwide total,” the report said.

Chances of being bitten by a shark remain low unless you are one of those people who likes to provoke sharks. In that case, good luck. Why not just run out in traffic on the Interstate? I’m sure that will get your adrenalin pumping just before your heart stops doing so.



Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.