For the 50+ Traveler

A beach is a place for peace, relaxation, vitamin D, ocean waves, and soft sands. The chances of someone going to the beach and encountering a shark hovering nearby are slim. However, with two recent shark attacks having happened within three days at a popular Florida beach, it seems the chances of coming face to face with a shark are more likely than we’d like to imagine.

New Smyrna Beach, located in Volusia County, Florida, is a hot spot of shark activity that’s begun to pose a threat to the safety of beachgoers. The shark population in the Atlantic Ocean waters off the beach has risen greatly and shark attacks there are on the rise. In fact, the beach has been dubbed the shark attack capital of the world according to National Geographic. But why are sharks gravitating toward this beach, and why are sun-seekers still swimming there?

Read on to discover the reason for New Smryna Beach’s rapidly increasing shark population, plus a few statistics and safety tips!

New Smyrna Beach, Florida, on a map.

Why Is New Smyrna The Shark Attack Capital Of The World?

The waters off New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County are home to a swarm of sharks.

According to National Geographic reporting on data from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), “New Smyrna Beach in Florida is the shark attack capital of the world.” In fact, it’s estimated that anyone who’s taken a dip in the waters there has been within 10 feet of a shark.

The big question on everyone’s mind is why? Tyler Bowling, manager of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told the Orlando Sentinel that there are three main things that contribute to the beach’s shark attack problem. One: The beach gets a lot of tourists. Two: The sharks often mistake people for their food source -- fish. Three: Humans are provoking the sharks.

According to ISAF, “The number of human-shark interactions is strongly correlated with time spent by humans in the sea. As the human population continues to expand and as interest in outdoor aquatic recreational activities increases, the incidence of shark attacks is expected to rise.”

A shark off the coast of Florida.

Florida Shark Attack Statistics

Florida has long been shark attack central in the United States. For years it has been the number one state for unprovoked shark attacks, and the trend hasn’t died down.

According to ISAF, “Following normal trends, Florida had the most unprovoked attacks in the U.S., representing 24 percent of the worldwide total.”

From 1837 to present, ISAF records show that Florida has had more shark attacks than any other U.S. state, with a total of 828 attacks on record. ISAF also says Volusia County, Florida, where New Smyrna Beach is located, leads the state in having the most shark attacks, accounting for 303 of the total 828 attacks on record. That is by far the most shark attacks for a single area in Florida or the country.

A sign warning swimmers about sharks.

Safety Tips For Avoiding A Shark Attack

If you’re worried about shark attacks, here are some tips that Bowling gave the Orlando Sentinel. If you’re about to hit the beach -- especially if it’s one of Florida’s beaches -- keep these tips in mind as you dive in for your next swim.

  • Avoid swimming at dusk and dawn; these are prime hunting hours for sharks.
  • Leave your shiny jewelry in your jewelry box. While you see a shining necklace, a shark might see a shiny object reminiscent of a fish scale.
  • Keep your splashing to a minimum. Sharks mistake the sound of waves for distraught fish, which are easy prey.
  • Keep a pal nearby while you swim.
  • Stay closer to the shore.
  • Avoid areas were people are fishing.
  • Never enter the water if you’re bleeding.
  • Practice caution near sandbars and steep drop-offs.

Of course, Florida isn’t the only place where sharks populate the waters. If you’re planning a beach vacation anytime soon, read up on the world's most shark infested waters before deciding where to take a dip. Heads up: Volusia County definitely made the list!