MIAMI Shark attacks on humans in the United States hit their highest level in more than a decade last year, but researchers say it does not mean sharks are getting more aggressive.
The United States recorded 53 shark attacks in 2012, matching the highest yearly total since the same number was registered in 2000, according to researchers at the University of Florida.
The number of U.S. attacks in 2012 marked an increase from 31 reported in 2011, although worldwide, the number was only slightly higher at 80 compared to 78 in 2011, according to the university's annual International Shark Attack File report released on Monday.
George Burgess, who leads the effort to compile the report, said shark attacks fell during the last decade, a trend he said was likely tied to economic reasons.
"I think the economy has played a major role in the sense with the downturn in the economy, fewer people had the ability to take holidays and visit the beach," he said.
Last year, "the upturn in the economy may have helped," Burgess said. "I think more folks went ahead with their vacation plans."
In the United States, which typically accounts for about two-thirds of the global total, the highest number was registered in Florida, where there were 26 attacks last year.
The state has a high concentration of sharks because its warm waters are home to species not found in cooler regions.
Hawaii had the second-highest number of attacks in the United States with 10.
Globally, Australia ranked second with 14 attacks, followed by South Africa with four.
There were a total of seven fatalities around the world from shark attacks last year, including three in South Africa and two in Australia.
As in previous years, surfers were the victims of most of the world's attacks at 60 percent, the report said.
(Reporting by Kevin Gray; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)