By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN American woman is dead after a shark attack near Rose Island yesterday.
Police said the woman was snorkeling around 2pm when she was attacked. The victim, believed to be 22 years old, was taken to the shore and then to Doctors Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
A woman, who claimed to have witnessed the victim being loaded into an ambulance, said it appeared the woman’s legs had been chewed off. “Oh God, I saw her being lifted into the ambulance by Texaco on East Bay today,” the woman posted in a popular Facebook group. “She was limp. I said a silent prayer but it didn’t look good. Looks like her legs were off. May her soul rest in peace. These sharks are becoming more and more agitated and I don’t understand why. It was never this way before.”
The Ministry of Tourism issued condolences to the woman’s family over the incident and said precautionary advisories had been issued by the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Details are still being gathered and confirmed, but preliminary reports indicate that the female visitor was snorkeling near Rose Island around 2pm when the incident occurred,” the ministry noted.
“She was brought to shore and transported to hospital in New Providence, where she was pronounced dead. The victim’s identity is being withheld pending confirmation of notification of next of kin. Investigations into the incident are ongoing and further details will be released when available. In the meantime, the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources has issued precautionary advisories to the public.”
Fatal shark attacks in the Bahamas are rare though the country has historically averaged several non-fatal attacks per year.
According to The Tribune’s records, the last confirmed fatal shark attack was on February 24, 2008 when Markus Groh, 49, died a day after a shark bit his leg. The lawyer from Vienna was in Bahamian waters.
On July 13, 2014 American chiropractor Dr John Petty, 63, of Longview, Texas, disappeared while diving with eight others from the Shear Water during a shark dive expedition at Tiger Beach, Grand Bahama. His camera and shredded dive gear were recovered from the water. His body was never found.
Yesterday a diving expert, speaking anonymously, told The Tribune shark attacks are rare in the country because of the clear waters.
“Sharks can see the prey that they are going after,” he said. “Sharks in the Bahamas eat primarily fish, not mammals like seals or walrus and therefore usually have no interest in humans.”
He continued: “Shark attacks are usually survivable because sharks make investigatory bites and will circle around before deciding what they had just tasted was actually consumable. The time between the initial bite and making the decision to carry through with the attack often gives the person time to escape or be rescued.”
The diving expert said circumstances change if the water is murky, if people are catching fish nearby, if someone cleaned fish in the area and the scent is in the water, if the person was spearfishing or if the shark was baited into the location.
“With any one of the above in place, the attack will be more direct and potentially more serious. The more of the circumstances listed above that are in place add to the intentionality and severity of the attack,” he explained.
“Sharks in the Bahamas are typically not of a size to consume an entire person. However, if the attack severs an artery, without advanced medical assistance the person can bleed out and die from blood loss.
“There is one species of shark in Bahamian waters that is aggressive enough and grows big enough to render an instantly fatal attack. The Tiger shark often grows to ten feet and females can grow to 16 feet. Tiger sharks are known to have the widest food spectrum of all species of sharks and unprovoked attacks on humans have been reported. An intentional attack from a ten to 16-foot shark will usually not end well.”
The diver stated that the Bahamas realised the value of sharks to the environment and have taken steps to educate the public and implement measures to protect the animals.
He said: “The Bahamas Shark Sanctuary was created in July of 2011 by adding an amendment to the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act (Chapter 244). The amendment created shark protections throughout all the territorial waters of the Bahamas, over 650,000 square kilometers of ocean. It was a major win for sharks, who already benefit from the long-line ban of 1992.”
According to the Florida Museum, the International Shark Attack File investigated 130 incidents of alleged shark-human interactions occurring worldwide in 2018. Most reports acknowledge five fatal attacks in 2018.
The Bahamas National Trust has called the Bahamas the “shark diving capital” of the world.