A 19ft-long great white shark decapitated a diver earlier this month while harvesting shellfish off the coast of Mexico, marking the first fatal shark attack of the year.
The horrific tragedy happened on Jan. 5 as Manuel Lopez, 53, collected ax guts – a type of mollusc – off Benito Juárez in Sonora on Mexico’s west coast, Tracking Sharks reported. He reportedly dived from the town of Paredón Colorado to the ocean floor without an oxygen tank to catch the creatures, which typically reside at depths of 36 to 59 feet.
Lopez’s shellfish fishing expedition was cut short when the shark bit its head, according to Tracking Sharks.
«He was diving when the animal attacked him, impressively ripping his head off and biting both shoulders,» eyewitness Jose Bernal told the outlet.
The attack follows a rise in local shark sightings that put area fishermen on high alert. «Local divers had been warned of sharks in the area, and most hadn’t been out for several days,» Bernal said.
However, Lopez, who would have needed the money, saw an opportunity for a kill due to the shortage of shells. He reportedly decided to ignore the warnings and embark on what would be his last fishing trip.
It’s unclear what prompted the apex predator to attack, but the shark may have been attracted to the turbulence and sounds generated by Lopez as he harvested shellfish, Tracking Sharks reported.
Humans are also often mistaken for seals when wearing wetsuits, which can prompt sharks to take «experimental» bites. And while the creatures usually move on after realizing the victim isn’t their preferred prey, this exploratory nibbling can prove disastrous due to the shark’s rows of serrated teeth.
Divers are more likely to be mistaken for seals in December and January, when great white sharks are most prevalent in the Gulf of California, Tracking Sharks noted. Pregnant sharks are said to seek out fat sea lions during this time.