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Salmon shark possibly attacks woman off B.C. coast

Kaitlin Dakers cut her finger while surfing off Tofino and it may be the first shark attack ever in Canadian waters

When you think about shark attacks, you usually don't think about it happening in Canada, but that's exactly what one woman is claiming.

Kaitlin Dakers, 23, was in the Vancouver Island town of Tofino earlier this month learning to surf for the first time when she believes a salmon shark bit down on two of her fingers. If it were a shark attack, it would be the first one ever in Canadian waters.

Bit by a shark

"I went to jump on my board, and I lost my balance and fell in the water," said Dakers. "And when I went to grab my surfboard, I realized there was a lot of blood in the water."

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She initially thought it was the rope that attached the board to her that caused the damage, but a doctor said it wasn't possible. The doctor said it looked like a bite and it must have been a quick bite for her not to feel it at the time.

While sharks aren't a regular occurrence in Canadian waters, salmon sharks are a species of shark that live in the north Pacific ocean. They feed on salmon as well as squid, sablefish and herring and, according to BBC, are a close relative to the Great White. Fully grown, they are about 2.5 to three metres long and weigh up to 220 kg. Unlike many other shark species, they can swim in the colder waters because they have a vascular net, which helps maintain the body temperature around their bodies.

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The salmon sharks may be in Canadian waters, but University of British Columbia professor Nick Dulvy is skeptical.

"There has never been a shark attack in Canadian waters and there's never been a shark attack by this species," said Dulvy, who is also the co-chair of an international group of shark specialists.

He doesn't discount it completely and is hoping to see pictures of her injury to piece together the story better.

See the salmon shark in action in this BBC documentary

With files from CBC