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May 29, 2008

Shark Attacks in Zihuatanejo

Trocones beach
Troncones, Mexico.
Photo: Melanie Acevedo/CNT

New! Several times a week, the Daily Traveler will spotlight a travel news item by taking a look at how it is reported by the growing mass of travel-based blogs, magazines, and assorted Web sites. We call this section the Aggregator.

by Tom Loftus

Surf paradise Zihuatanejo, Mexico, has been the site of three shark attacks, two of them fatal, in the past month. uses the opportunity to add the area to its Killer Beaches 2008, a Google mashup documenting recent shark attacks worldwide. also runs a post on the attack, although it makes the mistake of running a photo of the fearsome-looking, but harmless sand tiger shark. The shark(s) in question may be greys or tigers.

The most recent victim, a 49-year-old Floridian who managed to get away--minus a thumb--told his tale to the Associated Press. You can catch the video interview on USA Today. All victims were surfers, and surf blogs and surf sites covered the news with a typical mixture of eulogy and bravado. put together a slideshow of Adrian Ruiz, the 25-year-old surfer from San Francisco, California, who was killed on May 1 while surfing in Troncones, Mexico. The second fatality, 21-year-old Osvaldo Mata Valdovinos from Mexico, died on Friday, May 30.

As anyone who has caught Jaws on AMC knows, there is no truer equation than the following: tourist destination + shark = panic.

"Shark attacks have Mexico resort area in panic" reads yesterday's Associated Press story via Mexico officials, according to the story, are considering posting shark warning signs on local beaches. The AP quotes an unhappy surf instructor at Troncones: "Those signs will be the worst thing for us."

Such signage beats the usual official response, slaughtering sharks wholesale. 5ones, a Web site covering what it calls the "action sports industry," claims in "Mexico's Disgusting Response to Shark Attack" that Mexico's Navy was stringing the area's beaches with baited hooks shortly after the Ruiz incident. Meanwhile, WiLDCOAST, a southern California-based coastal protection group, has reported that authorities there have recently taken a softer approach, with marines walking the beaches to warn swimmers.

Why the sudden surge in shark attacks in an area better known for killer margaritas? A shark expert with Mexico's National Fishing Institute is quoted everywhere saying that cold currents and an abundance of giant squid and other prey may be attracting sharks to the area. And of course global warming makes an appearance in The Observer as another possible culprit.

Many news sources used the recent attacks to quote statistics from the International Shark Attack File showing that one has better odds of being hit by lightning/drowning in the bathtub/etc. than ever getting attacked. The odds continue to diminish. According to the environmental organization Oceana, an estimated 70 million to 120 million sharks are killed each year either for their fins or as the result of bycatch. 

Further reading:
* The Simple and the Sublime
* The Coast Is Clear


Great summary of all the craziness going on. There's been a ton of news coverage and hype around the whole thing from the original attack in April to the Mexican authorities slaughter to the recent attacks. Here's another good surf blog covering what's been going on and in relation to shark attacks in general.

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The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

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