A diver bitten by a shark off KwaZulu Natal in South Africa may have attracted the creature by the shape and colour of his fins.
The diver was bitten at the popular Aliwal Shoal on Tuesday, while taking part in a baited shark dive during the seasonal sardine run.
Operator Blue Wilderness has confirmed that, following the bite by a “large dusky shark”, the diver was airlifted for treatment and was “in a stable condition following surgery at Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban”.
The emergency assistance organisation Netcare 911 commended the operator, stating that “this young man owes his life to the well trained Blue Wilderness staff who managed to stop the blood flow so quickly”.
The shark was reported to have bitten at the diver's fins in what, said Blue Wildnerness, was “most likely a case of mistaken identity”.
The company surmised that the shark may have regarded the fins, which were of a split design with black and grey strips, as a “small shoal of fish”.
The company said that, after “over 23 years in the diving industry and 15 years in the shark diving industry, this has been the first time we have had an encounter such as this at Aliwal Shoal”.
It added: “Although there are more large dusky sharks around than usual at the moment due to the presence of sardines, there is no reason for them to have any more interest in us than they normally do, and this was really unfortunate.”
The injured diver had been diving with Blue Wilderness for about a month, as one of a group of interns who are “well-versed with the nature of these animals”.
“These guys are competent divers and are passionate about sharks,” said the company. “That’s why they travelled around the globe to join us during the sardine run.
“They have been making a valuable contribution to furthering our understanding of these sharks at the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area.”