Beachgoers are steering clear of the water after a Christmas Eve shark attack killed a surfer in Morro Bay, California.
“Everybody is kind of in shock,” Mike Jones, the owner of a surf shop in the coastal town, told the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “Everyone is watching the waves and nobody is really paddling out. Everyone is tripping out about what just happened.”
Police say the attack happened on Friday morning at State Parks Beach, just before 11am. When rescue workers arrived, the male victim had already been pulled from the water after an “apparent shark attack,” and was pronounced dead at the scene. The man’s name has not been released.
State parks officials and the local coroner’s office are investigating the incident, police said. Meanwhile, the beaches remain open, although beachgoers were ordered to stay out of the water for 24 hours.
On Sunday that order expired, but most people stayed on the sand anyway.
“Everyone was just standing around, baffled, trying to figure out what happened,” Mr Jones said on Sunday morning.
Eric Endersby, director of Morro Bay Harbor, said the shark involved in the attack was most likely a great white.
“It’s the ocean, and there’s sharks, and we have no idea where this animal may be,” Mr Endersby told the Tribune.
He also said there were no witnesses to the attack, but it was “definitely, clearly a shark attack.”
Mr Endersby said the victim was 31 years old, but would not divulge his name. He said the man’s family has been notified.
According to Mr Endersby, the victim’s body was found by a female surfer who spotted his boogie board floating in the water. She pulled him ashore, but by that time he was already dead, police and fire officials said.
Experts say shark attacks are extremely rare, and have become even rarer in recent years. According to The New York Times, the incident in Morro Bay may have been the only fatal shark attack in the United States this year.
“Fatality rates have been declining for decades, reflecting advances in beach safety, medical treatment and public awareness,” the Florida Museum of Natural History said in its 2020 report on shark attacks. “This underscores the importance of global efforts to improve ocean rescue, medical care and shark education.”