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Visualizing Shark Incidents in The Bahamas

Data Communication

Jaime D’Agord


On a recent spearfishing trip in the Bahamas, where I live, my husband had a too close for comfort encounter with a Caribbean reef shark. After spearing a fish and getting it on the boat, his dive partner shot another fish that got off his spear.

My husband was preparing to dive down to the rock where the fish took refuge when he saw his dive partner giving the shark signal (hand upwards like a shark fin) and pointing in his direction. As he turned around, he was face-to-face with the shark. Luckily, there was no contact or injury.

This incident piqued my interest in shark attack data. Specifically attacks that occur in The Bahamas and more so, attacks on person’s spearfishing.

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I pulled the Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), which is a spreadsheet of raw data consisting of all reported human/shark interactions, compiled by the Shark Research Institute. Using SAS Enterprise Guide, I filtered the data to look at incidents that occurred only in The Bahamas over the last 15 years.

After analysis, I had to cleanse the raw data. For instance, the dataset has a column for “Area”. There were occurrences where an island was referenced in three different ways: Grand Bahama, Grand Bahama Island, West End (a settlement on Grand Bahama Island).

To avoid visual clutter when I graphed the data this was cleaned up along with several other columns that had similar issues.

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My first question was which ocean activity resulted in the most shark attacks?

Much to my surprise, most shark attacks in The Bahamas were spearfishing related. Luckily for us, further analysis showed other types of activities accounting for higher frequencies when viewing the data that represent fatal attacks. This triggered another question, “where do most shark attack incidents occur?” So, I created a geospatial map to quickly analyze.

Duunnnn dunnn…. Duuuuuun! Considering spearfishing is my husband’s favorite hobby, I think we need to find a new Island to live on or he needs to learn to swim faster than Michael Phelps. The Geo map shows that most shark attack incidents in The Bahamas occur in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.

Out of curiosity, I graphed the shark species on attacks to the 22 people, who were spearfishing over the last 15 years. The graph clearly shows the aggressiveness of the Bull Shark, while the Caribbean Reef Shark (that my husband encountered), also enjoys making its presence known.

Based on the findings – and considering the Bahamas is known for ocean activities – it’s nice to see that over the last 15 years there have only been 47 reported shark attacks: so #dontfearthefin. At the same time, of those 47 attacks, less than half have been spearfishing related, with the majority of shark attacks occurring in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.

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