If Confirmed, the Event Would be the First Human Fatality by a Shark in Marin County
On Sunday morning around 10am of October 1, a Bay Area sailor identified as Felix Louis N’jai was reported missing while swimming with two friends at Wildcat Beach, a remote area in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Witnesses reported seeing a shark nearby, with accounts of a pool of blood where the swimmer was last seen. Suspected as the victim of a great white shark, the Mr. N’jai has not been recovered and a shark attack is yet to be positively confirmed.
On Monday evening October 2nd, the Coast Guard called off their search at sea, although near shore search continues. The Coast Guard, air and sea, joined by the National Park Service, Stinson Beach Fire Rescue and the Marin County Sheriff and Fire all searched the remote area, accessible only by trails and watercraft.
Other searchers continued along the shore, but that also ended Monday. Witness interviews have not been given to the press and the victim’s identity has not been released. If verified, the event marks the first case of a confirmed human fatality by a white shark in the County of Marin.
The coastline between Monterey and Mendocino is prime hunting habitat for great white sharks in the fall and early winter months, when seals breed and give birth on remote points, beaches and islands. According to the Florida Natural History Museum’s International Shark Attack File, Marin County County ranks 5th among California counties in shark attacks, with 15 recorded since 1926. A rugged and remote coastline north of San Francisco, most victims have historically been bitten while freediving for sea urchins or abalone, with a hotspot around Tomales Point and Dillon Beach. Although many of these victims suffered serious injuries, there have been no fatalities from a white shark thus far in the County of Marin. The last attack in the area occurred was in 2006. A 43 year old surfer was bit in the foot and leg by an estimated 12 foot white shark at Dillon Beach north of Pt. Reyes. Previous to that incident a 22 year old surfer was bitten by a white shark estimated at 18 feet, at the same beach in 1996. Two other Marin County incidents occurred on a boogie boarder at Stinson Beach to the south in 2008 and another at Stinson Beach in 2013.
The Red Triangle
This area bounded between Big Sur to the south, Point Arena to the north and the Farallon Islands to the west is often called the Red Triangle. Around thirty-eight percent of documented white shark attacks on humans in the United States have occurred within the Red Triangle. At around eleven percent of the worldwide total, this makes the area a hotspot for human-white shark encounters. Although statistically high relative to the rest of the world, the actual risk of a white shark attack is very low.
A 2015 study published by Stanford scientists estimated that surfers have about a 1-in-17 million risk of being attacked by a great white shark off California, the species responsible for 176 of the 198 shark “incidents” recorded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at the time of the study.
By comparison, the annual risk of being killed from drowning by ocean-goers are 1,817 times more likely than dying from a shark attack. Ocean goers off the Central California must be aware of all the risks associated with marine activity, and more aware during the fall months known as Sharktober off our coastline.
Learn how to avoid, and survive, a White Shark Attack.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Summary of California Shark Incidents (PDF)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife List of California Shark Incidents Since 1950 (PDF)
International Shark Attack File, Florida Natural History Museum https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/shark-attacks/
Shark incidents in California 1950-2021; frequency and trends(opens in new tab) from Frontiers in Marine Science, 15 December 2022
Collier, R Global Shark Attack File https://www.sharkattackfile.net/index.htm
Reconciling Predator Conservation With Public Safety- Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Francesco Ferretti, Salvador Jorgensen, Taylor K Chapple, Giulio De Leo, Fiorenza Micheli 10 August 2015 https://doi.org/10.1890/150109