California Shark Attack: What Are The Odds?

There is quite a bit of hysteria in California over recent shark attacks and sightings. Just last month, a swimmer had part of her leg bitten off by a white shark at San Onofre, and this week nearby San Clemente beaches were closed after a helicopter spotted 25 great white sharks as close as 25 yards from shore. After these much publicized events, we began wondering, what actually are the odds of getting attacked by a shark?
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Everyone has heard the adage, “you are more likely to be struck by lightning than bitten by a shark.” Is this true? We wanted to know, so we analyzed the California data from 2006 to 2016 to see which outcome is more probable.
There are about 37 million people living in California. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been six fatal lightning strikes from 2006 to 2016, with another twenty-six injuries. In the past ten years, roughly 1 in 1.1 million people were likely to be struck by lightning.
What about sharks? According to, there have been three fatal shark attacks, and another fifty-one confirmed non-fatal shark attacks. Odds of getting attacked by a shark in the past 10 years? 1 in 685,000.
In summary, a Californian is almost twice as likely to be attacked by a shark than get struck by lightning.  These odds are even greater when you applied strictly to coastal dwelling Californians. Still, despite this revelation, the odds are in your favor to have a perfectly safe surf or swim.
Where are the odds the worst for shark attack? Reunion Island, a French Territory in the Indian Ocean outside of Madagascar, has had twenty-two shark attacks (eight fatal) in the past ten years. Back in 2013, the government actually banned surfing on the island. The odds of a resident getting attacked by a shark in the past ten years? 1 in 38,000. Would you roll the dice?

2 thoughts on “California Shark Attack: What Are The Odds?

  1. I live in the midwest, where I’m a times more likely to be killed by lightning than a shark attack.; however those odds would shrink drastically if I wore an antenna on my head and walked around outside during a thunderstorm. Idiotic article.


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