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Shark Bites Off Arm, Legs, Kills Miyako Surfer

Date Posted: 2000-09-22

A shark attacked and killed a 31-year old surfer off Sunayama Beach in Miyako Island, Saturday. The fatal attack occurred only 30 meters from the beach. The manís friend who watched the attack from the shore said that the victim suddenly disappeared under water while waiting for a wave sitting on his surfboard. Immediately afterwards he saw the sharkís fin on the surface.

At the same time other surfers in the area shouted a warning. The surfers rushing to the scene found the victim and were able to drag him to the shore. He was taken to the hospital where he died of loss of blood. The shark had bitten off both his legs and the right arm and shoulder. The shark also bit off a chunk of his surfboard.

A previous fatal shark attack in Miyako occurred three years ago when a fisherman died after he went to swim off his boat. According to Masahiro Tomari, the chairman of Miyako Diving Association, this is the first time in living memory that a shark has attacked a human off a popular beach. ďAll previous shark attacks that Iím aware of have occurred further offshore and involved professional fishermen,Ē Tomari said. He went on to express his concern on the impact the attack would have on the island tourism, an increasingly important source of revenue for the local economy.

On Monday Hirara City local officials set a one kilometer-long fishing net off the Sunayama Beach to try to catch sharks possibly still in the vicinity of the beach. They set their net some 800 meters off the beach in a semicircle. They plan to leave the net for a day or two before checking whether they have caught anything.

Based on the toothmarks the surfboard, experts have concluded that the attacker most likely was about 2.5 meters long Great White. Hidelatsu Terya of Okinawa Memorial Park Aquarium said that the staple diet of this kind of sharks consists mostly of seals and attacks on humans are extremely rare. He went on to say that the shark probably mistook the sounds and shape of the surfboard for a seal. He said that it is rather rare for the shark to come to so close to the beach, but they sometimes seek shallow waters, for example just before they give birth. Hirara City conducts shark hunts every year. In this yearís first hunt, 54 sharks were caught.

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