On December 4, 2023, a tragic incident occurred in the Pacific Ocean off the beach town of Melaque, Mexico, where a 26-year-old woman was fatally bitten by a shark. The victim was swimming with her young daughter, attempting to help her onto a floating play platform just 75 feet from the shore when the shark attacked her leg. Unfortunately, despite the swift response of rescuers, the woman succumbed to blood loss due to the significant wound near her hip. The young girl remained unharmed during the encounter.
Following the incident, authorities closed the beaches in Melaque and neighboring Barra de Navidad to prevent further shark-human encounters. Shark attacks in Mexico are relatively uncommon, with the last reported incident in 2019 involving a U.S. diver who survived a bite in Magdalena Bay off the Baja California Sur coast. Beach safety and ocean rescue teams, including Civil Defense Office, U.S. Coast Guard, and Maui Fire Department, continue to work proactively to ensure the safety of swimmers in areas with increased shark sightings.
Contrary to popular belief, it is highly atypical for swimmers and surfers to encounter or be bitten by sharks. In fact, unprovoked shark bites have declined in the past decade. In 2022, there were 57 unprovoked bites worldwide, a decrease from the ten-year average of 74 annual unprovoked bites.
Sharks may mistake humans for their natural prey, which is a possible reason behind such attacks. For instance, kayakers wearing wet suits might resemble seals to a shark. Similarly, various shark species, including the great white shark and the porbeagle shark, might bite humans due to mistaken identity.
To mitigate shark attacks, some strategies have been employed, such as using drones to monitor popular beach areas, like the ones in Australia. Although the risk of a shark attack is minimal, being aware of nearby marine life and avoiding swimming near large schools of fish or in areas with poor water visibility can further reduce the likelihood of encountering a shark.