Representative Image Photo: AFP / Michele Spatari

A surfer succumbed to his injuries from a shark "encounter" off the coast of Maui in Hawaii on Saturday. The incident occurred at a beach in Maui's Paia Bay. The 39-year-old man, identified as Jason Carter, died soon after being taken to a local hospital.

The man could not be saved despite the doctors' best efforts and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"Once onshore, life-saving measures were performed by first responder personnel until medic personnel arrived to transport the male to the Maui Memorial Medical Centre for further treatment," the local police said in a statement.

One of the witnesses to the horrific encounter told NBC News that the shark began to bite and pull the man down, and that they were unable to hear him clearly as he was being attacked.

"The dorsal fin was almost as big as his [Carter's] body; the height of it was almost as high as his head sitting on the board. It was hard to hear him screaming," NBC quoted the man as saying.

An investigation has been launched into Carter's death, but police have currently ruled out any foul play. Meanwhile, the Baldwin Beach Park and Lower Pā'ia Park have been closed to people as local officials continue to patrol the area.

Shark attacks are rare off the coast of Hawaii. The last such fatal attack was reported in 2022. In 2013, a German tourist had her right arm severed by a shark while snorkelling just 50 yards from White Rock Beach in Hawaii.

The 20-year-old woman was transported to the emergency room at Maui Memorial Medical Centre in critical condition, but she died a week after the horrific attack. She also had a bite injury on her foot.

In a similar incident reported in 2013, a 65-year-old woman was killed in a shark attack while snorkelling off the coast of Hawaii, leading authorities to close beaches around Maui.

She was found lying face down in the water, about 180 metres from the shore. Injuries on the woman's upper torso suggested that a shark attacked her, but there were no witnesses to the incident.

It is said that Makena Beach in Maui is particularly dangerous for swimmers and surfers because it is frequented by tiger sharks.

Tiger sharks pose a greater risk to humans because they hunt in shallower waters near the surface. Also, their huge size (up to 16 feet) means they will swallow pretty much anything and are not picky eaters, making people potential prey.

According to a report by CNN, sharks kill five people per year in unprovoked attacks. Experts have attributed the rise in such attacks the world over to changes in the environment, such as rising sea temperatures and overfishing.

What should I do in case of a shark attack?

Sharks are not immediately aggressive; however, there are several misconceptions about them. Swimmers should avoid certain times and certain kinds of water to avoid being attacked. Sharks can be found in all five of the Earth's oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern. But different species prefer different climates.

Another tip is to dive with a group of people, especially in an area known for sharks. This means there are multiple eyes and ears. Ultimately, the best thing to do is to swim away calmly if you encounter one and feel uncomfortable. Panicking and thrashing will only make the shark more curious and likely to approach.

People should avoid being in the water at dawn and dusk, as visibility is not great, making it a time when sharks may be out and about looking for prey. Sharks have sensitive noses, and experts suggest that you prod at their noses to buy time and swim away.