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Economy cited as shark attacks decline

Associated Press / February 20, 2009
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Shark attacks dipped to the lowest level in five years in 2008, a change that might have happened because the ailing economy kept cash-strapped vacationers away from beaches, a leading shark specialist said yesterday.

There were 59 shark attacks around the world last year, compared with 71 in 2007, said George Burgess, an ichthyologist and director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida's Museum of Natural History.

"I can't help but think that contributing to the reduction may have been the reticence of some people to take holidays and go to the beach for economic reasons," Burgess said in a statement.

Burgess said he expects the economy to help cause another decline in attacks in 2009.

While the economy is a possible explanation, shark populations also have declined. In some areas, the number of sharks is down to 10 percent of the original populations.

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