California authorities have closed some beaches in San Luis Obispo County after a 31-year-old man was pronounced dead following an encounter with a shark on Friday.
The fatality marked the first death in a shark attack in 18 years in the area, which lies roughly midway between Los Angeles and Jan Jose.
On Saturday, county officials were still in the process of contacting next of kin before they release the man’s identity, said Eric Endersby, the Morro Bay harbor patrol director.
“It’s a horrible accident,” Endersby told CNN. “Fortunately, the weather and wind has ruined the surf, so there are not many surfers, but we’ve closed the waters for safety.”
Bad weather in the area had meant that there were fewer people in the water than usual. “Mother Nature was on our side because we could have had more people out for sure,” Endersby told the LA Times.
The patrol director said it was not clear whether anyone witnessed the attack, but that the man appeared to be a bodyboarder . He was declared dead when paramedics reached the scene.
The attack comes after a series of non-fatal shark encounters in the area. In 2019, student Nick Wapner was bitten by a Great White shark off Montaña de Oro State Park. Another attack also took place at the same beach four years earlier when a man was hit by a shark, believed to be an 8- to 10-foot juvenile.
The last fatal encounter came in August 2003 when a 50-year-old woman was attacked as she swam with seals, a favorite prey of the Great White.
Enderby told the newspaper that the presence of seals should be a warning to the presence of sharks.
“If you see a lot of bird or seal activity in the water, that’s a sign that people should be looking to get out of the water,” he said. “Human attacks are largely a case of mistaken identity.”