Young Boy Scouts camper bitten by shark while kayaking at Catalina Island, airlifted to hospital

Thursday, July 1, 2021
Boy Scouts camper bitten by shark while kayaking at Catalina Island
A boy who was part of a Boy Scouts camp at Catalina Island was bitten on the hand by a shark while kayaking on Wednesday, officials said.

CATALINA ISLAND (KABC) -- A boy who was part of a Boy Scouts camp at Catalina Island was bitten on the hand by a shark while kayaking on Wednesday, officials said.

The incident occurred near Parson's Landing around 7:15 a.m., according to lifeguards with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Boy Scouts officials said a youth participant of their Boy Scout Camp in Emerald Bay was canoeing when he sustained a non-life-threatening bite injury. The camp's onsite doctor and paramedics provided first aid before the victim was airlifted to the hospital.

According to the L.A. County Fire Department's lifeguards, the boy and his father were on their vessel when it was bumped by what's believed to be a shark. It's not yet known what type of shark or how large it was. During this encounter, the boy reached his hand into the water and was bitten by the animal, authorities said.

The victim was described to be in stable condition and was undergoing surgery.

Following the incident, lifeguard crews cleared and closed off 1 mile of ocean in each direction of the scene and notified adjacent lifeguard agencies, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Coast guard, per protocol. The closure of the water is set to remain in effect for a minimum of 24 hours.

In addition, lifeguard officials said a shark expert from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography has been requested to help identify the size and type of the shark involved.

Camp officials said staff members evacuated participants from the water following the shark incident and canceled all water activities for the time being. They emphasized that prior to every water activity, a chase boat is sent out to identify potential weather and wildlife hazards. That boat also follows each group of participants back to shore. No hazards were spotted Wednesday morning, they said in a statement.

Dr. Chris Lowe, a shark expert from CSULB, said shark attacks are rare but can happen near Catalina Island.

"Catalina, even though it's 26 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, is still technically close enough that white sharks easily range between there and the mainland," Lowe said. "Typically we see adults and some large juveniles out at Catalina, we don't see a lot of babies out there."

Lowe said the shark involved in Wednesday's attack was likely a large juvenile great white shark.

"By the time they're 2 to 3 years old, by that time they're 7 or 8 feet long, they'll start venturing out to the islands like Catalina and the Channel Islands," Lowe said.

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He said the best way to remain safe in the water is to go swimming with other people.

"If you're in the water, always stay together. There's safety in numbers, and basically we see a decrease in incidents where people are bitten if they're with other people," he said.

Summer is shark season in Southern California, but Lowe says it's safe to go to the beach -- just know your surroundings.

"We have some of the best beaches in the world. We have some of the best lifeguards in the world. People just have to do their homework when they go to the beach. Know what they can encounter. Know about rip currents, know about stingrays, know about sharks," he said. "By having that knowledge, you will not only feel safer when you're in the water, you can be safer when you're in the water."

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