Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY
The shark attack that killed a surfer in Santa Barbara County Tuesday was the second on the same stretch of beach in two years, and the third in California in the past four years, but nonetheless remains an increasingly rare phenomenon in the United States.
Francisco Javier Solorio Jr. of Orcutt, Calif., 39, sustained a massive bite on his upper torso while surfing. A friend brought him to the beach, but he was pronounced dead a the scene, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials say the victim's surfboard had visible signs of bite marks, KEYT-TV reports.
The attack occurred around 11 a.m. off Surf Beach, a popular public area that runs along the edge of Vandenberg Air Force Base, where a 19-year-old surfer was killed two years ago.
Vandenberg AFB's website says the beach has been closed until further notice.
Solorio's death is the 13th fatal shark attack in California waters since 1950, the Times notes. Six of them have taken place since 2003.
Still, the most recent International Shark Attack File, which is compiled by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, finds that fatal shark attacks in the United States have dropped steadily in recent years, while reaching a two-decade high worldwide.
The study says that of the 75 shark attacks worldwide in 2011,12 were fatal, up from six the previous year.
The ISAF notes that unprovoked shark attacks have increased at a steady pace since 1900, but cautions:
The numerical growth in shark interactions does not necessarily mean that there is an increase in the rate of shark attack; rather it most likely reflects the ever-increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans, which increases the opportunities for interaction between the two affected parties.
The study says several factors account for the drop in U.S. incidents, mainly fewer tourists traveling during the recession, the overfishing of shark populations, and more public awareness the potential danger.
One factor behind the increase in shark attacks worldwide is the spread of tourism into new areas that are unfamiliar to surfers and tourists.
The Florida Museum of Natural History also offers extensive tips for dealing with sharks attacks, including:
If one is actually under attack by a shark, we advise a proactive response. Hitting a shark on the nose, ideally with an inanimate object, usually results in the shark temporarily curtailing its attack. One should try to get out of the water at this time. If this is not possible, repeat bangs to the snout may offer temporary restraint, but the result likely become increasingly less effective. If a shark actually bites, we suggest clawing at its eyes and gills, two sensitive areas. One should not act passively if under attack -- sharks respect size and power.