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A top Florida fish boffin says that the global recession is causing a massive decrease in the number of shark attacks.

George Burgess, Florida Uni ichthyologist, is fortunate enough to be Director of the International Shark Attack File, so he would know. Apparently shark assaults in 2008 numbered just 59, down from 71 in 2007.

"I can't help but think that contributing to that reduction may have been the reticence of some people to take holidays and go to the beach for economic reasons," Burgess said. He believes that a decline in shark attacks is a sure indicator of economic doom, having noticed a similar dip in people scoffed by peckish elasmobranches following the bursting of Bubble 1-dot-0.

"We noticed similar declines during the recession that followed the events of 2001, despite the fact that human populations continued to rise," he says.

It seems that two-thirds of shark attacks worldwide happen on the coasts of the United States, with most of these in Florida.

Echoing different debates regarding different attacks, Burgess hinted that many victims brought their fate upon themselves.

"Surfers are the heavy favorites [for sharks] largely because the splashing of arms and particularly the kicking of feet at the water's surface where visibility is poor is provocative to sharks," he said.

But it seems that most surfers love their sport sufficiently that being nibbled on doesn't put them off.

"I've yet to find a surfer who says he or she won't go back into the water after a bite or a nip," says Burgess.

"They understand where humans fall in the grand order of things," adds the ichthyologist, evidently something of a species traitor.

It seems that shark attacks mirror the economy in the long term as well as the short. Just as the world gradually gets richer over time - though with painful staggers like the one now taking place - the longterm maritime molestation trend is up. Burgess offers some hope both for recession-hit humans and malnourished sharks, saying he expects the graphs to rise in coming years.

"We know this decade will be higher than the last," he says.

We may be seeing the birth of a hot new shark research discipline here, even more interesting than the specialist engineering involved in mounting laser deathrays on the hostile elasmobranches' heads. Burgess may just come to be seen as the world's first sharkonomics expert. ®

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