A 19-foot-long great white shark decapitated a diver early this month as he harvested shellfish off the coast of Mexico, reportedly marking the first fatal shark attack of the year.
The horrific tragedy occurred Jan. 5 while Manuel Lopez, 53, was gathering ax tripe — a type of mollusk — off Benito Juárez in Sonora, on the west coast of Mexico, Tracking Sharks reported. He was said to have been diving from the town of Paredón Colorado to the ocean floor without an oxygen tank to nab the critters, which typically reside at depths of 36 to 59 feet.
Lopez’s shellfishing expedition was cut short when the shark bit his head clean off, according to Tracking Sharks.
“He was diving when the animal attacked him, impressively ripping off his head and biting both shoulders,” eyewitness Jose Bernal told the outlet.
The attack follows an increase in local shark sightings that have area fishermen on high alert. “Local divers had been warned about the presence of sharks in the area, and most had not been out for several days,” said Bernal.
However, Lopez, who was reportedly in need of money, saw an opportunity to make a killing due to the shellfish shortage. He allegedly decided to ignore the warnings and begin on what would be his final fishing trip.
It’s unclear what prompted the apex predator to attack, but the shark could have been attracted to the turbulence and sounds generated by Lopez while he was harvesting mollusks, 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 serrated, meat-shearing teeth.
Divers are more likely to be mistaken for seals come December and January, when great white sharks are most prevalent in the Gulf of California, Tracking Sharks noted. Pregnant sharks are said to be searching for fat-filled sea lions during that time.