This Interactive Shark Attack Map Shows It’s Safe to Go Back in the Water

A great white shark prowls the ocean.
A great white shark prowls the ocean. / lindsay_imagery/iStock via Getty Images

UV exposure, rip tides, and aggressive seagulls aren’t the biggest threats most beachgoers fear. If they’ve seen Jaws (1975) or watched enough dramatic reenactments during Shark Week, an encounter with a great white likely ranks higher on the list. A fear of sharks has been instilled in many people who live within driving distance of the ocean, but it’s not as rational as you may think. As a new online tool demonstrates, shark attacks are rare—and when they do happen, they’re usually not deadly.

The Florida Panhandle designed an interactive world map to educate the public on shark attack data, Men’s Journal reports. If you’re planning a beach trip this summer, you can find your destination and view its history of shark incidents going back decades. Each fin represents an attack, and at first glance shark “hotspots” like Florida may seem like danger zones. But a closer look at the statistics tells a different story. Only the red fins indicate fatalities, while the white fins show shark encounters that didn’t end in death. Clicking on the icons brings up details like the year, exact location, shark species, and what the victim was doing leading up to the attack.

When viewed as a whole, the datapoints paint a far less terrifying picture. There have been roughly 3000 shark attacks recorded in the U.S. over the past 30 years, and of those less than 10 percent were deadly. That means you’re more likely to be killed by lighting, influenza, or bees than by a human-eating shark. 

The researchers behind the map hope it will illustrate that humans pose a greater risk to sharks than the reverse. As the website reads, the risk of death by shark attack, “is almost nonexistent. Although humans kill approximately 100 million sharks annually, sharks kill as few as five humans each year.” 

They also understand that the fear some people feel is real, and they include a guide to surviving a shark attack to help swimmers feel prepared for the worst. Here are more tips for making it out of a shark encounter alive from a survivor with real-world experience.