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Walton County beaches closed due to shark attacks; three people hurt

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SEACREST — Walton County beaches were closed Friday afternoon due to two shark attacks that injured three people, two of them critically.

According to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, Walton County Fire Rescue and South Walton Fire District responded to a report that a woman was injured by a shark near Watersound Way and Coopersmith Lane just after 1:15 p.m. Friday.

The South Walton Fire District transported the victim to a local medical facility. At a 5 p.m. news conference, officials said the woman, age 45, lost her lower left arm and suffered injuries to her midsection. She was hospitalized in critical condition.

They said she was swimming past the first sandbar when she was injured.

Watch the press conference about the shark attacks here.

As for the second attack: About 2:56 p.m., the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and the South Walton Fire District responded to an area near Inlet Beach. According to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, two people were injured.

At the press conference, officials said the victims were ages 15 to 17. They were in waist-deep water just past the first sandbar, about 4 miles from the site of the first attack. One victim was hospitalized in critical condition and one in stable condition.

Double-red flags are now flying on beaches in the surrounding area, meaning the Gulf of Mexico waters are closed. Those found violating the warning will be fined $500.

Because of this, all Walton County beaches will be closed for the rest of the day Friday.

Also, neighboring Bay County closed its beaches.

According to, the incidents in Walton County are the first three shark-related incidents in Florida in 2024.

How many shark bites were there worldwide in 2023?

The Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File investigated 120 alleged shark-human interactions worldwide in 2023. Sixty-nine were confirmed as unprovoked shark bites on humans and 22 were found to be provoked bites.

Breakdown of 2023 reports around the world:

  • Unprovoked bites: 69
  • Provoked bites: 22
  • Boat bites: 9
  • Scavenge: 2 (post-mortem bites)
  • Public Aquaria: 1
  • No assignment could be made: 1
  • Not confirmed: 16

Related coverage: Bay County closes beaches following two shark attacks in neighboring Walton County

How does 2023 compare to other years when it comes to shark bites?

The 69 confirmed unprovoked cases is in line with the most recent five-year (2018-2022) average of 63 incidents annually, according to Florida Museum.

How many fatal shark bites happened in 2023?

There were 14 confirmed shark-related fatalities this year, 10 of which were considered unprovoked. Two occurred in the U.S.

2023 more than doubles 5-year average of fatal shark bites

The 14 shark-related fatalities is higher than the five-year annual global average of six unprovoked fatalities per year.

Three of the unprovoked fatalities were due to bites from white sharks on surfers in Australia.

Florida Museum said the increase in fatalities in 2023 could reflect year-to-year variation, “but it might also be the consequence of the increasing number of white sharks seen at aggregation sites near beaches that are popular with surfers (particularly in Australia).”

Top 5 locations for unprovoked shark bites worldwide

According to the International Shark Attack File, the Top 5 locations for unprovoked shark bites are:

  • United States: 36, with 2 fatal
  • Australia: 15, with 4 fatal
  • New Caledonia: 3, with 1 fatal
  • Brazil, 3, with no fatalities
  • Egypt: 2, with 1 fatal

The United States recorded the most unprovoked shark bites in 2023, with 36 confirmed cases. This is slightly lower than the 41 incidents recorded in 2022. 

Florida tops US in number of unprovoked shark bites

Florida continues to be the No. 1 location for the number of shark bites.

There were 16 bites — although none were fatal — confirmed in 2023. That’s lower than Florida’s historic average of 19 incidents a year.

  • Florida: 16 bites, none fatal
  • Hawaii: 8 bites, 1 fatal
  • New York: 4 bites, none fatal
  • California: 2 bites, 1 fatal
  • North Carolina: 3 bites, none fatal
  • South Carolina: 2 bites, none fatal
  • New Jersey: 1 bite, none fatal
  • What are people doing when they’re bitten by sharks?

According to Florida Museum, here’s what people were doing when bitten by a shark:

Surfing/board sports: 42%

Swimming/wading: 39%

Snorkeling/free diving: 13%

Other: 6%

Florida East Coast sees most of state’s shark attacks

While there have been shark bites around the state, two things stand out:

There have been no reported shark bites in the Big Bend area.

The majority of shark bites happen along Florida’s East Coast, especially between Jacksonville and Palm Beach County.

More shark coverage: Pregnant 13-15 foot great white shark washes ashore Navarre Beach

More shark coverage: 9-foot great white shark pings off Panama City, Florida coast just in time for spring break

Top 10: Confirmed unprovoked shark attacks in Florida from 1882 to present

Volusia County: 351

Brevard County: 158

Palm Beach County: 83

St. Johns County: 45

Duval County: 46

Martin County: 41

St. Lucie County: 39

Indian River County: 22

Monroe County: 21

Miami-Dade County: 20

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