Freediving Spearfisherman Bitten by Shark 


  • A shark bit a free diver on the shoulder while spearfishing at a max depth of 35 feet (approximately 8 meters). 
  • The diver was kicking on the surface while reeling in a speared fish. 
  • The diver was assisted onto the boat and successfully transferred to the hospital for treatment. 

Reported Incident

A free diver was spearfishing at a max depth of 35 fsw (8msw) when they scored a big catch. After shooting the fish, the diver kicked and splashed at the surface while reeling it in. As the fish was coming in, the diver made a 360-degree turn to check the surrounding area for any sharks. Then, while the diver wasn’t looking, a shark bit their shoulder from behind. The free diver violently struck the shark and it released from their shoulder. A nearby dive buddy helped the injured free diver on to a boat and used combat gauze to stop the bleeding before rushing the injured diver to the hospital for treatment. A tourniquet could not be applied due to the location of the shark bite. 


The free diver’s splashing and kicking behavior mimicked the behavior of injured prey of marine predators. In addition, the free diver failed to remove the fish from the water quickly enough to mitigate the risks associated with spearfishing near sharks that innately respond to fish vibrations and blood in the water. Upon shooting a fish, the diver did not signal to his dive buddy to help him scan for predators while removing the speared fish from the boat which allowed the shark to attack the diver from behind. 

After the shark bite, the dive buddy acted appropriately by assisting the victim out of the water and applying direct pressure to the bleeding site as quickly as possible. By using a barrier, in this case gauze pads, the wound was protected against bloodborne disease. After providing basic life support, the diver was stabilized for transport to definitive emergency care.  


Spearfishing creates unique risks associated with shark bites and other animal attacks. The vibrations and blood of a speared fish naturally attract sharks who may enter a frenzied state in response to injured prey. In addition, sharks are attracted to splashing behaviors at the surface which mimic injured prey. If you are in the water with sharks, show them the healthy respect they deserve; most of the time they are content to share the water column with no fuss whatsoever. 

However, if you do find yourself in a situation where there is concern for attack while spearfishing, continually face the shark and calmly leave the area with controlled movements. Don’t panic, and avoid splashing behaviors, and assume a position of defense protecting the diver from an attack from behind. Most sharks are stealth predators, so being able to keep them in your line of sight is helpful to prevent an attack. 

When spearfishing with sharks, always dive with a buddy, avoid poor visibility water, and do not use a belt stringer or dive bag to carry fish, if possible. If you must use a belt stringer, it is recommended to cut the speared fishes’ gills or pith the brain/spine to stop the vibrations. Small amounts of blood tend to attract sharks slower than the vibrations.  

If an attack does come, sharks may be repelled by blunt blows to the head, nose, or eyes; these are sensitive areas with a high density of sensory nerve fibers. The use of weapons such as spear guns, knives, or bang sticks is not recommended, especially by those untrained in their use. Inappropriate use of a weapon can cause unnecessary injury to both the diver and the animal threat.