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Surfer likely killed by great white shark, expert says

October 23, 2012 |  4:50 pm

Great white likely killed surfer near Vandenberg Air Force Base
Authorities are still trying to determine what kind of shark was responsible for the fatal attack on a surfer off the Santa Barbara coast Tuesday, but one oceanography expert said the details so far are consistent with it being a great white shark.

Andrew Nosal, of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, said that almost all shark attacks off the California coast are by great whites.

"If indeed it was a shark, it was probably a great white," Nosal said. "There is no other species swimming off of the coast regularly that could possibly do that kind of damage."

Lt. Erik Raney, a Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Santa Maria Station spokesman, said authorities recovered the man's surf board with visible signs of bite marks and will contact a shark bite expert to examine the board as well as what appeared to be the fatal bite injury.

Federal and state wildlife officials are also working to identify the type of shark.

The attack occurred just before 11 a.m. Tuesday off  Vandenberg Air Force Base, making it the 13th fatal shark attack in California waters since 1950. Six of those attacks have occurred since 2003. 

On average, four to six people are killed in shark attacks worldwide each year, Nosal said.

Authorities say Tuesday's attack occurred while the victim, a 38-year-old male, was surfing with three others on Surf Beach. The beach is publicly accessible from California 246.

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Man killed in apparent shark attack off Santa Barbara County coast

-- Wesley Lowery and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Surfers who were with the 38-year-old victim of a fatal shark attack leave Surf Beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County on Tuesday. Credit: Leah Thompson / The Santa Maria Times

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