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A fatal shark An attack has been reported in the French Caribbean territory of Saint Martin, surprising many in the eastern Caribbean region, where experts say such attacks are extremely rare.

Government spokesman Alain Rioual confirmed the attack to The Associated Press, but declined to comment further before a press conference.

The attack occurred in Saint Martin in the Caribbean. (Getty Images / iStockphoto)

He said it is the first time in the territory’s recent history that a fatal attack has been reported.

The attack occurred in Orient Bay, a popular beach located in the northeast part of the island that St Martin shares with the Dutch Caribbean territory of St Maarten.

Details about the person’s identity or nationality were not immediately released, although local media reported that the victim was an unidentified woman in her 40s.

Only one unprovoked, non-fatal bite has been reported in St Martin, and it occurred in 2005, Tyler Bowling, manager of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told AP.

In all, there have been 34 unprovoked bites in the Caribbean region since 2000, four of which have been fatal, he said.

The most common shark species in the region where today’s attack occurred are Caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks, which pose no risk, said Mike Heithaus, shark researcher and dean of the College of Arts, Sciences and Florida International University education in a telephone interview.

He said that occasionally tiger sharks and bull sharks also appear.

Mike Heithaus, shark researcher and dean of the College of Arts, Sciences and Education at Florida International University. (Twitter)

“Most of the time they are not a threat, but they can be dangerous,” he said.

Most of the shark attacks in the Caribbean have occurred in the Bahamas, two of which were recorded last year, one of them deadly.

A shark attack was also reported in Cuba in 2019, according to the Florida-based International Shark Attack File.

The program’s director, Gavin Naylor, told the AP that he was surprised by the attack.

“It is quite unusual in that part of the world,” he said.

While no details have been released, Naylor said such attacks are often linked to extenuating circumstances, including spearfishing or chumming, adding that 95% of shark attacks are accidental.

He said that most of the attacks in the Caribbean occur in the Bahamas due to its massive tourism.

“We see a very strong correlation between shark bites and the number of people in the water,” he said.

Deep blue

The largest sharks caught, tagged and studied around the world

The organization reported a total of 64 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks around the world last year.

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