By Wendy Osher
A new web tracking page is available online showing the movement of several tiger sharks that were fitted with satellite tags near Maui in recent weeks.
The Pacfic Islands Ocean Observing System is monitoring movement following an increase in the number of unprovoked shark bite incidents, in comparison to previous years, according to the agency website.
So far, the website features tracking of seven sharks–one male and six female–ranging in size from 9.3 feet to 14.2 feet.
The tracking dates back to the period starting between Oct. 17 and 20, 2013, when the sharks were first tagged with the satellite devices.
“These tags intermittently track their locations over time as the shark’s dorsal fin breaches the water’s surface,” but agency officials note that, “this is not a warning system and does not provide real-time monitoring.”
According to the PACIOOS website, the study is funded by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources, with data collection compiled with the help of the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology.
Last month, the DLNR launched the $186,000, two-year study to focus on tiger shark movements around Maui, and compared their behavior to that of known movement patterns around the other main Hawaiian islands.
The data will be used to help determine whether sharks around Maui are more resident than they are around other islands, and whether they exhibit greater use of inshore habitats than in other locations, according to information posted on the web tracking page.
Six of the 11 shark attack incidents reported so far this year on the state’s Hawaii Sharks website were around Maui waters including the following encounters:
- October 31, 2013, at Ka’a Point in Central Maui: A kite surfer suffered injuries to his right leg and calf in an apparent shark attack incident about 300 yards offshore.
- October 23, 2013, off of Kukona Place in Waiehu: Shane Mills of Maui suffered a laceration to his lower back and left thigh in an apparent shark bite incident.
- August 14, 2013, at Palauea Beach, also known as White Rock in Māken: Jana Lutteropp, a 20-year-old German woman had her arm severed in a shark attack incident and died a week later on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
- July 31, 2013, at Ulua Beach in Wailea: Evonne Cashman of California suffered puncture wounds to both surfaces of right side of torso and lacerations to right hand while swimming approximately 125 yards from shore.
- February 21, 2013, at Kā’anapali, Honokōwai: A surfer reportedly suffered lacerations to their right leg after an encounter with a reef shark approx 100 yards from shore in six feet of water, according to state data.
- February 21, 2013, at Pāʻia Bay: A reef shark reportedly bit the rail of a foam surfboard while J. Lansky was surfing approximately 75 yards from shore in 5 to 8 feet of water, according to the state data.
The Hawaii Sharks website is used to document confirmed shark encounters, and “does not include encounters in which a shark does not actually bite a person or board, nor incidents classified by the International Shark Attack File as boat attacks, scavenge, or doubtful.”