A surfer who was found dead near Tourmaline Surf Park Wednesday night was apparently bitten by a shark after he drowned, according to officials.
Marine biologist Dr. Andy Nosal from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography was able to look at the photos from the body and said it appeared the victim died of drowning.
“The bites that were observed on the body when it washed ashore were inflicted postmortem,” he said.
Nosal said the body sustained heavy trauma and the bite marks were definitely from a shark, but not a large one.
“It’s probably not a great white, most likely it was a sevengill shark which is very common in the kelp forest between La Jolla Cove and Pacific Beach where this occurred,” he said.
Sevengill sharks are the largest local predators to live off the coast of San Diego and are known to eat fish, seals and other marine mammals. They can grow up to 9 feet long.
The kelp forest off the coast likely provides sevengills with a lot of food, and divers have seen an uptick of them in recent years.
“The number of sevengills has really increased in this area, the scuba divers love them,” said Nosal.
He warned that people should not provoke them, though they are usually harmless to humans. Scuba divers are frequently in the water with the animals and have no problems with them.
“But they need to be respected,” said Nosal. “Just because they are big and can be potentially dangerous.”
It will take some time to figure out exactly what kind of shark it was that bit the surfer after drowning, but if it was a sevengill or several sevengills Nosal said he wouldn’t be surprised.
“Sharks are known to be scavengers,” he said. “They’re always going to go for the easier meal given the choice.”