THE body of a paddle boarder has been found by a fisherman after he was reportedly savaged to death by a shark.
The 53-year-old man was discovered with evidence of shark bites near a beach in Noumea, New Caledonia – becoming the latest in a number of attacks since the start of the year.
He was found lifeless on his board late Saturday just off the Nouville peninsula, on the main island of the French South Pacific territory.
An autopsy to confirm the cause of death is expected on Monday.
"At this stage, investigators do indeed suspect a shark attack," state prosecutor Yves Dupas said in a statement.
Authorities regularly issue shark alerts and warn swimmers to be vigilant for several species found in the waters surrounding New Caledonia.
This horrific incident is just the latest in a spate of attacks this year.
In February, a 57-year-old man was killed near Maitre island after being bitten by a shark that witnesses say was four metres (13 feet) long.
Authorities also believe the disappearance of a swimmer and a boater earlier this year could be due to sharks that have settled along the coasts near Noumea.
Twenty-four sharks – that officials say were particularly large or aggressive – were culled near the capital last month.
It comes after the Sun reported last year that nine people had been killed in some 60 shark attacks worldwide during 2020 – the highest figure since 2013.
Scientists have suggested shifting hunting grounds, the weather, an increase in staycations, overfishing and even "chance" may have played a role in the spike.
In total, eight men and one woman, aged between 17 and 63, were killed by sharks in 2020.
Speaking last year, Dr Blake Chapman, a marine biologist who examined shark neuroscience for her PhD, told Guardian Australia that some attacks with multiple bites suggested the sharks may be preying on humans.
She said: "In some of the cases this year it sounds like the shark hung around and bit more than once, which is unusual behaviour for great white sharks.
"When they bite more than once it’s more likely to be fatal as there’s more blood loss."
Other experts however insist shark attacks remain rare and the figures last year are roughly in line with previous numbers over the last decade.
Shark attack victims in 2020
SHARKS have killed more people than they have in seven years, and scientists are not sure why attacks have become deadly
- Gary Johnson, 57 – Mauled to death while diving as his girlfriend Karen Milligan watched from a boat just metres away on January 5 off Cull Island, Australia.
- Zach Robba, 23 – Dubbed a "young Steve Irwin", the park ranger was fatally attacked by a shark off Australia's Great Barrier Reef on April 7.
- Ben Kelly, 26 – Surfing when he was attacked by an "unknown" species of shark at Manresa State Beach in California on May 10.
- Rob Pedretti, 60 – Bitten on the back of his thigh by a 10ft great white shark while surfing off Salt Beach, Australia on June 8.
- Matthew Tratt, 36 – Killed by a shark which bit his leg while he was spearfishing on at Indian Head, Australia on July 4. Counted by shark trackers as a "provoked" attack.
- Mani Hart-Deville, 17 – Suffered shocking cuts to his legs during the deadly mauling at Wooli Beach in Australia on July 11
- Julie Dimperio Holowach, 63 – Swimming with her daughter near Bailey Island, Maine, in the US when she was seen disappearing under the waves before being "thrown into the air" on July 27
- Nick Slater, 46 – was mauled to death by the shark while surfing at Greenmount Beach on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia on September 8.
- Andrew Sharpe, 53 – Attacked and dragged beneath the water by a shark while surfing in Wylie Bay, Australia, on October 9. His body has not yet been found.
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