White shark kills diver with one bite 

Great white shark (Elias Levy)
Great white shark (Elias Levy)

A Mexican shellfish diver who had defied warnings of danger lost his life on the morning of 5 January when a large great white shark bit off his head.

The shark, estimated by witnesses to be 6m long, killed Manuel Lopez, a man thought to have been in his 50s. He had been diving on an umbilical to collect scallops found at depths down to around 18m. 

The incident occurred off Benito Juarez in Mexico’s Gulf of California coast in the state of Sonora – Lopez lived in the nearby town of Paredon Colorado.

Two tenders were supplying compressed air to Lopez via a hose from the fishing-boat, and witnessed the attack at the surface. They said that the shark had ripped off Lopez’s head and bitten into his shoulders.

White sharks migrate to the Gulf of California to feed in December and January, in particular pregnant females that prey on sea-lions and seals. The men said that they had been warned that sharks were in the area and for that reason had resisted going out to collect shellfish for some days, but because of financial pressures Lopez had eventually elected to take the risk.

Shark-bites have been shown to result from the animals mistaking humans for their natural prey, especially at the surface, which is why recreational diving with them is normally carried out using cages.

Shellfish divers in Mexico are advised to avoid wearing plain black wetsuits, and to adopt deflection strategies such as adding a pattern of light stripes to their suits or wearing two dive-masks, one on the back of the head, according to the website Tracking Sharks that recently brought the fatal incident to light.

Last February another surface-supplied diver, 56-year-old Victor Estrella, was also killed by a white shark while hunting for scallops off the Sonora coast. He was fatally injured while still under water. 

Missing in Cozumel

Meanwhile on Mexico’s Caribbean coast a US scuba diver who had been staying at the Allegro Hotel on the island of Cozumel was reported missing on the afternoon of 16 January, after going out on a group dive to the Santa Rosa reef to the south. 

The emergency call from his dive-boat followed a reported 15-minute underwater search after he had failed to resurface. Currents in the area were said to be strong at the time. The Naval Search, Rescue & Maritime Surveillance Station searched the area, with an alert going out to boats as far away as Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Also on Divernet: ‘Time To Fight Like Hell For White Sharks', Guadalupe Shark-Dive Ban Made Permanent


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