A 5-meter great white shark decapitated a diver early this month while he was harvesting shellfish off the coast of Mexico in reportedly the first fatal shark attack of the year.
The horrific tragedy occurred on Jan. 5 while Manuel Lopez, 53, was collecting ax rumen — a type of mollusk — off the coast of Benito Juárez in Sonora, on Mexico’s west coast, Tracking Sharks reported. He allegedly dived to the ocean floor from the town of Paredón Colorado without an oxygen tank to catch the critters, which are usually at depths of 11 to 18 meters.
Lopez’s shellfishing expedition was cut short when the shark bit its head clean, according to Tracking Sharks.
“He was diving when the animal attacked him, impressively tearing his head off and biting both shoulders,” eyewitness Jose Bernal told the outlet.
The attack follows an increase in local shark sightings with fishermen in the area on high alert. “Local divers had been alerted to the presence of sharks in the area and most had not been out for several days,” said Bernal.
However, Lopez, reportedly in need of money, saw an opportunity to commit murder due to the shortage of shellfish. 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 could have been attracted to the turbulence and noises generated by Lopez while he was harvesting molluscs, Tracking Sharks reported.
Humans are also often mistaken for seals while wearing wetsuits, which can prompt sharks to take “experimental” bites. And while the creatures generally move on after realizing the victim isn’t their preferred prey, this exploratory nibble can prove catastrophic due to the shark’s rows of jagged, carnivorous teeth.
Scuba divers are more often mistaken for seals in December and January, when great white sharks are most common in the Gulf of California, Tracking Sharks noted. Pregnant sharks would prey on fat-filled sea lions during that time.