A man who had been on a boogie board off the coast of central California has died after apparently being attacked by a shark near Morro Bay, authorities said on Friday.
The man, whom authorities have not identified, was found floating and unconscious off Morro Strand State Beach at around 10:40 a.m. and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a statement from California State Parks.
If confirmed, the attack would be the first fatal shark attack in the United States in 2021, according to an incident log maintained by the Global Shark Attack File, which tracks data on interactions between humans and sharks. The newspaper says there have been eight fatal attacks this year around the world, including three in Australia.
Local authorities posted shark warning signs within a mile of the scene of the attack, as is standard procedure, said Adeline Yee, a spokeswoman for the parks, in an e -mail Friday evening. Bathers are advised to avoid going into the water in this area, near Morro Rock, the iconic volcanic rock that dominates the water, for the next three days, she added.
The exact cause of death was not immediately known and the San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s Office was investigating, according to the California Parks statement.
Deadly shark attacks on humans are extremely rare. There were three fatal shark attacks in US waters in 2020: off Bailey Island, Maine; Maui, Hawaii; and near Santa Cruz, California. From 2011 to 2020, the United States experienced just seven fatal shark attacks and 448 non-fatal attacks.
There were 57 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2020 and 39 provoked attacks, killing 13, according to the International Shark Attack File, another organization that tracks shark data, which is based at the Florida Museum of University of Florida Natural History.
Ten of the deaths were found to be unprovoked, which is higher than the annual global average of four of those deaths, according to the Florida organization. Annual fluctuations in shark-human interactions are common and long-term trends show a decrease in the number of deaths, the museum said.
In 2020, surfers and participants in other boardsports accounted for 61% of shark attacks, the Florida-based shark group said in its annual report.
“This group spends a lot of time in the surf area, an area commonly frequented by sharks, and may unintentionally attract sharks by splashing, paddling and ‘killing themselves’,” the report said.
Swimmers and waders accounted for 26% of the attacks, while the remaining bites were distributed among snorkelers, snorkelers, body surfers and scuba divers.
The risk of being bitten by a shark remains minimal, the Florida group said in its report.
“The total number of unprovoked shark bites worldwide is extremely low, given the number of people participating in aquatic recreation each year,” the report said.
“Death rates have been declining for decades, reflecting advances in beach safety, medical treatment and public awareness,” the report continued. “This underscores the importance of global efforts to improve sea rescue, medical care and shark education.”