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Catalina Island Shark Attack Leaves 15-Year-Old's Paddleboard Bitten

Paddleboarders | Photo: SmartBoyDesigns/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A shark attack near the Avalon coast Sunday morning has prompted officials to urge caution when in the waters around Catalina Island. A 15-year-old female was paddleboarding with a group about 200 yards from shore when a shark bit her board several times, according to the L.A. County Fire Department. The teenager, whose group was about a mile from Avalon, was not injured.

The fire department called the incident "extremely rare" in a press release, but said it would continue patrols throughout the area. The type of shark has not yet been identified, a fire official said early Monday morning.

Of the nearly 50 shark attacks off the California coast in the last decade, four have been fatal, according to a running tally kept by the Shark Research Committee. Only one was recorded off Catalina Island in 2008 when a kayaker, who survived, was ejected from her vessel.

Often quoted in stories after such incidents, the committee's president, Ralph Collier, usually brings balance to any hysteria created when attacks make rounds in the media. As the fire department said, attacks are rare. "From 1900 to the present," he told The Daily Beast in 2008 after a fatal attack in San Diego County, "we've had total of 147 shark attacks along the Pacific Coast of North America, including California, Oregon and Washington, and there have been 11 fatalities confirmed, including this latest one." (since the interview, there was a 12th fatal attack in Santa Barbara County)

In an interview last year with Travel + Leisure, he said, "For an animal so large, sharks are remarkably cautious. They use all their keen senses to determine if something is food. The last thing they do is put it in their mouth. When they realize it's of no interest they release it."

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