“Unprovoked shark attack” at San Onofre?

According to the news section at the Shark Research Committee on July 11, 2009 Brian Hovnanian was involved in an “unprovoked shark attack,” by definition, at least. According to the article an unprovoked attack is defined by “any physical contact between a shark and human, or piece of equipment being utilized by a human, without any know provocative action by the subject which might cause the shark to strike out.”

According to the report, Hovnanian was stand-up paddleboarding when a 5′ shark with a gray back and white underside bumped into his board, hit his calf, and caused him to fall onto the shark and the board. The shark then slid back into the water and swam off.

While I understand the reasoning behind defining an unprovoked shark attack to not necessarily require a victim being bitten, it seems a bit of a stretch to refer to this as an “attack.” Yes, I know that “technically” it meets the criteria of the definition given by the Shark Research Committee, but based on the article it sounds like the shark might have accidentally bumped into the board and ended up on top of it. I’m no expert, but it’s hard to imagine a 5′ shark mistaking a stand-up paddleboard for food and making a bid to attack it from below. Reading a report like this and seeing it deemed as an authenticated attack makes me wonder if shark attack statistics might be over-inflated with similar encounters.

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