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In the United States, Florida, North Carolina, California, Hawaii and South Carolina led the list of states where shark attacks happened in 2010.
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updated 2/8/2011 9:38:26 AM ET 2011-02-08T14:38:26

More shark attacks happened in the United States last year than in any other country, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File annual report, released Tuesday.

Worldwide, shark attacks also increased, with 79 occurring in 2010, the highest since the year 2000, when sharks attacked 80 people. Shark-related fatalities for last year were also above average, with six deaths reported.

The news might have been even worse in shark-popular spots like Florida, were it not for the lousy economy.

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“Florida had its lowest total since 2004, which was 12,” said ichthyologist George Burgess in a press release.

“Maybe it’s a reflection of the downturn in the economy and the number of tourists coming to Florida, or the amount of money native Floridians can spend taking holidays and going to the beach," added Burgess, who is director of the file housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

Although Florida's number of shark attacks declined in 2010, the state still led the U.S., with 13 reported attacks. Twenty-three other attacks happened in these other states:

North Carolina: 5

California: 4

Hawaii: 4

South Carolina: 4

Georgia: 1

Maine: 1

Oregon: 1

Texas: 1

Virginia: 1

Washington: 1

Outside of the U.S., the following countries also experienced shark attacks in 2010:

Australia: 14

South Africa: 8

Vietnam: 6

Egypt: 6

Egypt is noteworthy because five of its six attacks, which included one fatality, all happened during early December and were attributed to just two sharks. The attacks occurred within a 5-day period.

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“This was a situation that was hugely unusual by shark-attack standards,” said Burgess, who has researched sharks at the museum for more than 35 years. “It was probably the most unusual shark incident of my career.”

He thinks a combination of natural and human factors contributed to the attacks in the Red Sea. These include higher than normal water temperatures caused by an unusually hot summer, international livestock traders dumping sheep carcasses into the water, and divers feeding reef fishes and sharks.

“The reality is, going into the sea is a wilderness experience,” he said. “You’re visiting a foreign environment — it’s not a situation where you’re guaranteed success.”

With that in mind, it might not be such a good time to swim off the coast of Florida, where 100,000 sharks were recently spotted swimming close to shore. Helicopter pilot Steve Irwin, who saw the sharks, believes they were spinner sharks, which received that name because of their unusual method of feeding. They swim rapidly through schools, spinning along the axis of their bodies and sometimes leaping out of the water.

© 2012 Discovery Channel

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