Hammerhead Shark Bites Diver Off San Diego Coast in Rare Attack

The man was diving about 100 miles off the coast of San Diego

A diver was injured in a shark attack about 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, U.S. Coast Guard officials confirmed.

The 58-year-old man was underwater Monday just after 8 a.m. when he was bitten in the right hand by a hammerhead shark, Coast Guard officials said.

The unidentified man was diving from a passenger vessel called "Peace" at the time of the attack. According to Peace Dive Boat's website, the Ventura-based boat is part of a chartered trip to the Cortes Bank, a popular diving area about 100 miles off the coast.

An EMT on board gave the man basic first aid help, but the Coast Guard's flight surgeon recommended that the patient be airlifted from the boat.

Officials sent an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew to the boat, where they lowered a rescuer, strapped the patient to a stretcher and lifted him into the chopper.

He was taken to the UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest in stable condition.

Coast Guard officials say it’s the only shark bite report it has received this summer.

Mike Price, an assistant curator of fishes at SeaWorld, said hammerhead shark attacks are extremely rare because humans are not on their prey list.

Since scientists started keeping records in the 1950s, there have only been 32 documented hammerhead shark attacks, according to Price. If verified, Monday's would be the first one on the West Coast.

He said the shark was likely a scalloped hammerhead that can grow up to seven feet long. They are typically found off Southern Mexico and Central America.

"It's very possible because of the warm water and the fact that Cortes Bank is a type of sea mountain, that you would have scalloped heads that have just followed the warm water and are just aggregating like they would normally do, around the Cortes Bank," said Price.

He told NBC 7 hammerheads are not scary sea monsters that are coming to bite people.

The Shark Research Institute reports that hammerhead sharks are typically nonaggressive when approached by divers. However, they will defend themselves if threatened.

"And sharks that defend, really defend with one way, and that's sharp teeth and strong jaws," Price said.

It's unclear why the hammerhead bit the diver, and the charter boat company did not return NBC 7's calls or emails.

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