German diver attacked by shark - Isla del Coco, Costa Rica

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DiveTheGalapagos

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Undersea Hunter released a statement on their Facebook page today:

With this statement, Undersea Hunter would like to provide information about an incident that took place recently at Cocos Island on April 28, 2018. The incident took place with another liveaboard operator, and the following is the information we received directly from them:

At the end of a dive at the surface, one of the divers surfaced separately from the rest of the group – but still visible to the crew who were picking up the other passengers. While this man was waiting to be picked up, a tiger shark approached him, swam around him, and got close enough to bite his BC. The experienced diver dumped his gear and swam slowly towards the nearest island, the entire time being observed by the crew. After swimming for a few minutes, he reached the island and the inflatable arrived to pick him up.

The diver asserts that this was an encounter, rather than an attack. Several days later we recovered the dive gear and the BC, which had several tears that we suspect were caused by an inquisitive test bite.

Since December of 2017, Undersea Hunter has taken all precautions to avoid any kind of incident with the sharks at Cocos. We have implemented several new procedures to enhance the safety of all of our passengers, including: having all of our divers enter and exit the water together; increased training for our dive guides; equipping our dive guides with specially constructed aluminum sticks that can deter close encounters if necessary. Prior to December 2017, the Cocos Island National Parks Department did not allow the use of any kind of defense stick, and furthermore in the history of diving at Cocos Island there had never been any kind of shark incident.

We strongly believe that by following the above procedures, any kind of serious incident with sharks can be avoided. This is also a reminder to all visitors to Cocos Island how important it is to follow the safety guidelines of dive guides at all times.
 

HalcyonDaze

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Separated from the group at Cocos seems to equal hello from big stripey fish. Glad it was just an "inspection" and the diver got out of that situation safely. As stated I once saw some very large (14'-15') tigers repeatedly grab a BC and tank lying on the bottom and was surprised how relatively gentle they were with it; I don't recall seeing any tears or ruptured hoses afterwards.

I'm a bit curious about the "swam slowly to the nearest island" bit - I suspect most people would be cuing up "Walk on Water" on their mental playlist at that point.
 

Steve_C

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I used to do a fair amount of fishing with live bait from boats and piers. Saw a number of sharks. In every case where the bait was at the surface the shark would first investigate the bait and then come back and take it, sometimes a few minutes later. It was not like a bluefish or other fish that would strike because something moved. They investigated first. Don't know how general that is in terms of areas and species but that was the general pattern I saw.
 
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Dan

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Trip of a little lifetime! Time for you to start a shark repellent thread?

No need. I got one of those pointers to stabilize myself on rock (instead of a finger) when taking pictures (see picture, below). As long as my back is covered by my dive buddy or facing the group, I can keep eyes on the tiger shark & ready to shove my camera to its face or poke its eye with the pointer.

6053BB99-6438-47F3-98CB-F4F86DC243B1.jpeg
 

HalcyonDaze

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No need. I got one of those pointers to stabilize myself on rock (instead of a finger) when taking pictures (see picture, below). As long as my back is covered by my dive buddy or facing the group, I can keep eyes on the tiger shark & ready to shove my camera to its face or poke its eye with the pointer.

View attachment 461239

I've been hesitant to post this video because it was during a shark-feeding trip that went slightly sideways and that's often land shark bait on these forums. However, in light of this discussion I felt it was worth showing as an example of how you can react to a tiger shark that is getting too pushy. This is footage taken from my mask camera on a dive a little over two years ago.


To briefly recap the scenario, we had settled at the feed site 70 ft down with a bait crate, and eventually a couple lemon sharks and two juvenile (8-9 ft) tiger sharks turned up. Viz as you can see was not great; maybe 40 ft. The video picks up near the end; the opening shot is of one of the two tigers maneuvering behind the group and getting pushed away. She wasn't being aggressive, just getting the bitey bits closer than we liked.

Shortly before the next segment starting at 0:15, one of the tigers swam out of view; when a tiger swam out of the haze I figured it was the same shark returning. Since the camera is turning with my head, you can see how I follow her as she passes me and the diver to my left before looking over to my right to make sure no surprises are coming from that direction. When I look back she's turned around and coming back towards us. At 0:36 I check to my right again and see a third tiger silhouette in the distance; at that point I realize that the one that just passed me is our girl DJenny, a somewhat ornery 10-foot subadult. The Looney Tunes double-take is a good indicator that I considered her more trouble than the other two.

Now, while that was happening the DM had picked up the bait crate and signaled for us to start ascending; however between the reduced viz and everyone keeping their attention on the big stripey fishies a bunch of us didn't immediately notice. That set up the next bit where the diver to my right wound up with two tiger sharks directly behind him and I felt it necessary to get in the mix. After that, we formed up and ascended.

As we were going up, DJenny was repeatedly going low to the bottom and then coming up vertically at the group. She wasn't moving particularly fast, but then again she really only had to cover 30-40 ft at that point. I'm not sure what she was up to and that is behavior I've seen before, but I was feeling a bit uncomfortable in those circumstances - not so much for myself as for anyone who wasn't watching her closely. My response was to block her ascent path head-on with my camera held up, which seemed to work. Might she have bitten someone? I don't know, but I wasn't taking my eyes off of her and I wanted her to know it.

The take-diving message is that for all the talk about punching, kicking, going for the eyes, etc. I feel your best defense against a shark getting in your face is to demonstrate that you are on full alert and ready to checkmate any moves into your personal space. Get aggressive, swim right at it, and if you do have a stick or a camera in hand go ahead and use it as a blocking device. That generally gives the shark the impression you're something it doesn't want to get cute with.
 

scuba5150

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Whenever I anticipate diving in close proximity to sharks I wear as much black as possible, including suit, hood, fins, gloves, and etc. My CCR is black as are my O2 and diluent cylinders. Open circuit cylinders are either unpainted or dark grey enameled steels, and hoses are all black. Only usual exceptions to my all dark policy are the line on my spools/reels which are dirty white or yellow, and my dark orange lift bag and SMB. The whole idea is not to wear anything that could easily be perceived as a fish. (Think of the phrase “fish-belly white.”)


A common suggestion for many commercial operations is to either mandate or suggest that divers adhere to an all dark colored gear protocol. Enforcement of this policy varies according to the individual operator.


So the idea is to look like a seal?????
 

HalcyonDaze

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So the idea is to look like a seal?????

The whole "mistaken for a seal" bit applies to surfers who are in areas that a) have seals and b) have shark species which prey on seals (or turtles). Even then the association is kind of questionable; seeing how white sharks often utterly demolish pinnipeds a lot of their attacks on surfers seem restrained enough to indicate curiosity rather than predation. A diver in clear viz looks nothing like a seal to a shark.

The idea behind not having light-colored gear is that a shark is going to see something bright moving around and either mistake it for a small fish or be intrigued enough by the contrast to give it a test bite. It's standard advice on shark dives and my gear is generally dark in color, but then again I have bare metal regs, a yellow hose for my pony reg, yellow-and-green nitrox stickers on my tanks, etc.

Personally, I think what's more important is the overall impression the shark gets looking at you. Rapid, jerky movements indicate distress and potential vulnerability. Slower, more measured movements and keeping a head-on profile towards the shark indicate that you are uninjured, aware of the shark's position, and not fleeing. You want the shark to see you as another big animal that is on equal terms with it. At our feed sites off Jupiter we have adult goliath groupers in the same weight class as the juvenile and subadult tigers we see, and it's pretty clear the sharks have no interest in picking fights with them. Earlier this year I saw footage of one goliath full-on headbutting a 9-10 ft tiger in the abdomen when the shark got into its personal space; I joked that particular grouper should either be given a Scottish nickname (for the "Glasgow kiss") or be known as "Zero Effs."
 

Yuriy

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5 pages of reviews, but no one, attention, nobody asked the question - what did this “diver” do alone away from the group? !!! How did it happen that he surfaced alone? !!!! Where was the buddy ?! I am 100% sure that before diving instructor was given a briefing - that in this place NO WAY if you swim and float separately !!!! but no, there is always a "diver" who doesn't care. And then begin talking about what to do with sharks- (. We are not talking about that! Just not everyone can be allowed on Coco! And once again - in this place we dive with wild animals in their habitat and nobody can guarantee safety for 100%. But you should at least listen to the briefing!
 

rongoodman

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On a trip to Cocos last year we had a diver who simply would not listen to the briefings and insisted on swimming around out in the blue, scaring away the hammerheads. There's only so much the crew can do, and telling a diver who's spent thousands of dollars on a trip that he must stay out of the water is farther then they might want to go(especially with this guy, who had done multiple trips with the company and evidently had some pull with the home office). Luckily for him, he only annoyed the rest of us, and wasn't hurt, either by the tiger sharks or his fellow divers.
 

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