Great White Shark Decapitates Man, Fishing Chief Says Divers Risking Lives

A fishing chief in Mexico has said mollusk divers in the Bay of California are risking their lives after a man was decapitated by a great white shark in a horrific attack.

On January 5, a man thought to be in his 50s named Manuel Nieblas López was diving for ax tripe—a scallop-like mollusk—with colleagues in Tobari Bay, located on the coast of Sonora state, when he was attacked and killed by a huge great white, Tracking Sharks reported.

"He was diving when the animal attacked him, ripping off his head and biting both shoulders," fisherman Jose Bernal, who witnessed the attack from the group's boat, told the website.

The fishermen said the shark that killed their partner was estimated to measure around 19 feet in length. The largest great whites on record have measured about 20 feet.

A great white shark
A file photo of a great white shark. A fishing chief in Mexico has said that mollusk divers are risking their lives after a man was decapitated in a shark attack. iStock

Local divers had previously been warned of great white shark sightings in the area for several days prior to the attack and many had avoided entering the water as a result.

Federal subsidies are available for fishermen in Mexico to supplement their incomes, but the amounts aren't sufficient to live on if they are n't catching and selling enough produce from the sea.

"What happened is unfortunate, but we have to work, because that's what we live on," José Luis Reina, president of a local fishing cooperative in the area, told Mexican news outlet El Imparcial.

"There are many colleagues who avoid going out, but there are many others who run the risk," he said.

Some local fishing organizations have called on the Mexican government to provide divers with special equipment that can deter sharks. These devices include bracelets and other wearable equipment that emit an electromagnetic field.

These animals use electroreception—the biological ability to perceive natural electrical stimuli—in order to hunt and navigate. The idea behind the deterrent devices is that they disrupt this sensory system in sharks and rays, without harming them, making the wearer an unattractive target.

Fearing new attacks and shark sightings, many fishermen in the area decided to temporarily halt diving trips to harvest scallops, Red Noticias 23 reported.

The incident is the first confirmed fatal shark attack of 2023. Last year, another scallop diver was killed by a shark in the same region—around 10 miles off the port of Yavaros, Sonora state—in what was the first fatal shark attack of 2022.

Great white sharks are most commonly seen in the Gulf of California between December and January, when pregnant females visit the area.

Globally, shark attacks are very rare—and fatal incidents even more so. The odds of being killed by a shark are about one in 3.7 million, according to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), which is operated by the Florida Museum of Natural History. This means you are more likely to die from a lightning strike than by being attacked by a shark.

In 2022, more than 90 shark attack bites were recorded around the world, nine of which were fatal, figures from Tracking Sharks show.

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