By Wendy Osher
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources will launch a shark study next month off Maui following an “unprecedented spike” in the number of shark bite incidents in recent months.
So far this year, there have been eight confirmed incidents in Hawaiian waters, including four within the last month, state officials said.
Of the eight shark bite incidents, DLNR officials say four were on Maui, three on the Big Island, and one was on Oʻahu.
Last year, there were a total of 10 confirmed shark incidents, the highest number ever recorded in a year, according to DLNR information posted on its hawaiisharks.org website. That’s up from the average three to four incidents per year, according to state officials.
“DLNR is paying close attention to the recent series of shark incidents statewide,” said William Aila, DLNR chairperson in a department-issued press release.
“These appear to be random events involving sharks of different species and different sizes. There’s nothing we can yet discern that connects the incidents or provides any sort of explanation,” he said.
According to the DLNR, the $186,000, two-year study will focus on tiger shark movements around Maui, and compare their behavior to that of known movement patterns around the other main Hawaiian islands.
“The results will help determine whether any management options should be considered,” officials said.
DLNR Chair Aila provided further explanation of shark activity in the following statement:
“Historically, October through December are the months when the rate of shark incidents increases. This is part of traditional Hawaiian knowledge, reinforced by our own statistics. So we urge people to be extra cautious, and follow our suggestions for reducing the chances of being bit.
Remember that sharks play an important role in marine ecosystems, and the ocean is their home. We’re the visitors. Going into the ocean is a wilderness experience. There are animals out there that can hurt you. The chances of something like that happening are incredibly small, given how many people are in the water every day. There are precautions you can take to make those chances even smaller.”
The agency reminded the public to follow precautions, adopted by the original Shark Task Force and updated slightly based on new understanding of shark behavior. The list of tips for shark attack avoidance can be found here.