Maui Shark Behavior Study Findings to be Released

May 16, 2016, 8:39 AM HST · Updated May 19, 3:53 PM
Wendy Osher · 0 Comments
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*Video credit: PacIOOS. Carl Meyer, Ph.D. and others of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa tag a tiger shark off the coast of Maui near Kīhei in October 2013. 

By Wendy Osher

Findings of a nearly two-year long tagging and tracking study of tiger sharks off Maui and Oʻahu will be unveiled during a press conference later this week (the findings are now available at this LINK), with new information to be released on shark behavior around the Valley Isle.  The study was commissioned after a spike in the number of shark bite incidents on Maui in 2012 and 2013, which tapered off somewhat in 2014.  (Scroll down to see full listing of Maui shark bite reports from 2013 to 2016).

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The research was led by a team from the University of Hawaiʻi’s Institute of Marine Biology and was commissioned by the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.

DLNR launched the $186,000, two-year study in 2013 to focus on tiger shark movements around Maui, and compared their behavior to that of known movement patterns around the other main Hawaiian islands.

University officials say the sharks were captured and fitted with the tracking devices off of Kīhei, Olowalu and Kahului, Maui beginning in 2013 as part of the ongoing study; and that similar efforts were launched off of Oʻahu in October to provide a comparative assessment.

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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.

Additional support and funding was provided by the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System or PacIOOS program.

The Maui and Oʻahu tiger shark tracks are available online at the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System website, which manages the data and provides funding for ongoing research operations.  A total of 28 sharks were being tracked at last report, the largest of which is a 14.7 foot female

The findings will be presented during a news conference on Thursday, May 19, 2016, in Honolulu.  Among those scheduled to participate are: Dr. Carl Meyer, Principal Investigator, Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology; Dr. Bruce Anderson, Administrator, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources; and Melissa Iwamoto, Director, Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System.

2 Maui Shark Bite Incidents so far in 2016:

  • March 31, 2016, 11 a.m.: A 46-year old female visitor was snorkeling with a commercial tour when a shark bit her snorkel fin.  The incident occurred in Olowalu, approximately 400-450 yards from shore in 15-20 feet of turbid water. (J. Orr).  Authorities say the woman sustained a minor laceration to left foot. The shark was described as a tiger shark, measuring approximately 8 feet long.
  • Jan. 23, 2016, 10:30 a.m.: Wailea Beach Point, 150-200 yards from shore. A 10-12 foot shark bit the tail of a paddleboard being operated by a stand-up paddleboarder in 30 feet of water during clear conditions.  The shark was a 10-12 foot Tiger shark.

3 Maui Shark Bite Incidents in 2015:

  • Oct. 31, 2015, 3:30 p.m.: Lāna‘i, Po‘aīwa Beach, approx 300 yards from shore Spearfishing Turbid est 25 ft Confidential. No injury; shark bit weight belt. Considered a provoked incident due to activity.  Tiger shark, length 10-12 feet.
  • April 29, 2015, est. 8:30 a.m. ʻĀhihi Kīnaʻu Bay, Kanahena Point, approx 200 yards from shore Snorkeling Turbid 20-35 ft M. Cruse. Fatal. Severe deep lacerations to right shoulder and underarm; minor lacerations to right arm and right side of face. Species and length unknown.
  • Jan. 27, 2015, 3:30 a.m.: Maui, Pali scenic lookout Fishing Turbid on shore M. Pollard. Lacerations to left calf. Considered a provoked incident due to activity. Reef shark, species unknown, length 4 feet.

5 Maui Shark Bite Incidents in 2014:

  • Nov. 13, 2014: A 50 year old Homer, Alaska man, snorkeling in the ocean off of Kahekili “Airport” Beach in the Kāʻanapali area of West Maui, reported being bitten by a shark at around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014.
  • Oct. 22, 2014: A Kīhei woman who was standup paddle boarding approximately 200 yards offshore in 6 feet of water at Waipuʻilani Beach Park reported that a tiger shark knocked her into the water and bit the tail portion of her board.
  • Oct. 20, 2014: a 58-year-old man was stand up paddle boarding at Kahului Harbor when a shark reportedly bit the man’s board.
  • Oct. 18, 2014: a surfer fended off a shark attack at Māʻalaea.  In that incident, park officials say a 12 to 14 foot shark bit the man’s board.
  • July 16, 2014: 5:20 p.m. at Pāʻia Bay, 200-250 yards from shore in 15 to 20 feet of water.  A swimmer reported being bitten by a 6 to 7 foot reef shark and sustained lacerations to his left foot.

8 Maui Shark Bite Incidents in 2013:

There were a total of eight shark bite encounters reported on the state’s Hawaii Sharks website in Maui waters in 2013:

  • Dec. 2, 2013: 10:20 a.m. in Mākena, approximately 900 yards from shore in about 100 feet of water.  A man who was fishing from a kayak died after sustaining a severe deep laceration and loss of tissue on right calf.  State officials say they consider the encounter a provoked incident due to activity.  The species and length of the shark is unknown.
  • Nov. 29, 2013: 1 p.m. in Kīhei at Keawakapu, approximately 30-40 yards from shore in 10 to 15 feet of water.  A snorkeler sustained a severe laceration to their right inner calf, as well as minor lacerations and puncture wounds to the right shin and ankle.  State officials say the species and length of the shark is unknown.
  • 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.
  • April 2, 2013, 8:20 a.m. 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.”

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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