Wednesday 23 March 2022

Italian tourist dies after being bitten by a Shark in the Caribbean.

An Italian tourist has died after being bitten by a Shark while snorkelling of a beach on San Andres Island on the Caribbean coast of Colombia on Friday 18 March 2022. Antonio Straccialini, 56, from the Abruzzo Region of Italy was received a single bite to the thigh, and while he was able to pull himself out of the water, he died of blood-loss shortly after. The identity of the Shark is not completely certain, but there are reports of a pair of Tiger Sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier, being seen in the area before the attack, and this species is known to occasionally attack Humans.

A Tiger Shark in the Bahamas in 2012. Albert Kok/Wikimedia Commons.

Despite their fearsome reputation, attacks by Sharks are relatively rare and most attacks on Humans by Sharks are thought to be mistakes. Tiger Sharks have a diverse diet, including invertebrates, Fish, Birds, Marine Reptiles and Marine Mammals, which we superficially resemble when we enter the water. Marine Mammals are attacked principally for their thick adipose (fat) layers, which are a nutritious high-energy food, but which we lack. Due to this, when Sharks do attack Humans, these attacks are often broken off without the victim being consumed. Such attacks frequently result in severe injuries, but are seldom immediately fatal, and victims are likely to survive if they receive immediate medical attention.

The location of San Andreas Island. Google Maps.

Following the incident there are reports of local people organising a Shark hunt to find and kill the offending Animal, despite the fact that this is illegal in Colombia, where Sharks are protected, as well as pictures having been posted on social media of hunters with a dead Nurse Shark, Ginglymostoma cirratum, a species considered to present no threat to Humans. This has been condemned by environmental groups in Colombia, and in particular Colombian actor and dive master Victor Mallarino, who has observed that this response is completely inappropriate, and a consequence of poor public education about Sharks in the country. In Italy, meanwhile, many people are questioning why no alarm was raised after a Shark of a species considered to be dangerous was seen in the viacinity of Human bathers.

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