UPDATE: Shark Sighting Closes Mākena State Park

September 21, 2017, 10:14 PM HST · Updated September 22, 6:21 PM
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Shark Sighting sign. Maui Now file image.

The waters off of “Big Beach” and “Little Beach” at Mākena State Park were closed for around two hours Thursday afternoon, Sept. 21, 2017, after an aggressive shark stole the fish catch of two men spearfishing offshore.

The men were freediving about 20 yards off the point between Big Beach and Little Beach when what they believed to be a seven-foot Galapagos shark approached them with aggressive behavior and stole their catch which was attached to their dive float.

They swam back to shore and informed maui County lifeguards, who cleared the ocean of swimmers at 12:10 p.m.

The area was reopened at 2:10 p.m. after no further sharks were sighted.

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Officials with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources say that for centuries, traditional Hawaiian chants have warned about an increased risk of shark bites in the fall, when the wiliwili tree blooms. DLNR data shows that from Jan. 1, 2014 to Sept. 22, 2017, 27 shark incidents have occurred that involve a shark biting a board or person in Hawaiian waters. Of the 27 incidents, 16 or 69% of the incidences happened between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31.

“October is the month with the greatest number of shark bites,” said DAR Administrator Bruce Anderson. “We recommend ocean users exercise a little more caution this month especially, and also through the end of the year. The chance of being bitten by a shark in Hawaiian waters is always extremely small, but does increase a bit during this time frame.”

According to DAR data, for the 35 year period ending in 2015, there were 122 unprovoked shark bites in Hawaiian waters, 21% of them or 26 incidents occurring in the month of October. DLNR authorities note that none of the documented October bite incidents included in the data were fatal.

Maui Incidents so far in 2017:

August 9, 2017: 2:30 p.m.: Lifeguards at Hoʻokipa Beach were patrolling the area following a shark sighting reported near shore. Witnesses described it as around 5 feet in length and say it appeared to be a black tip.

March 11, 2017: A Maui fisherman encountered a great white shark near Ukumehame Beach Park in West Maui, he said the great white was about the length of his 12-foot kayak.

Maui Shark Incidents in 2016:

December 26, 2016, 12:30 p.m.: “Big Beach” in Makena closed due to a shark sighting.

November 23, 2016: 10:50 a.m.: Lifeguards were alerted by standup paddle boarders who had exited the water on the south end of Kamaʻole Beach Park I. The group witnessed five hammerhead sharks about 6 feet in length, circle their boards and then swim off. The incident took place in shallow water when the paddlers were about 10 feet from shore.

November 14, 2016, 10:01 a.m.: Woman described a large shark biting her about 40 yards offshore from Kama‘ole Beach Park 1. The woman was reportedly floating on the surface and hanging onto a foam flotation device when she was bitten on her right calf and right thigh.

October 21, 2016, 5:01 p.m.: Pā‘ia firefighters responded to Ho‘okipa Beach Park for a person with a possible shark bite. The man was surfing about 50 yards from shore off the west point of Ho‘okipa Beach Park at the surf spot known by some as “H-Poko.” A surfer near the victim looked over after hearing the man scream, and saw a five-foot reef shark biting the surfer’s left arm. The shark let go and then bit the man again in the left leg.

October 14, 2016, 9:55 a.m.: A female snorkeler suffered injuries to her lower left leg in a shark bite incident off of Charley Young Beach in Kīhei in waters about 40 feet from shore and seven feet deep.

August 6, 2016, 4:30 p.m.: Maui stand-up paddleboarder, Connor Baxter was using a SUP hydrofoil when the long foil attached to his SUP board was bit by a tiger shark, estimated to be 10 feet long. The incident was reported in the Hamakuapoko area of Pā‘ia, about one mile from shore. DLNR officials say the incident occurred in 40-50 feet of water that was described as being turbid.

May 3, 2016, 3:50 p.m.: A 59-year-old man suffered minor lacerations to his right shoulder while floating in waters off of Wailea Beach about 40 yards from shore in 15-20 feet of turbid water. The species and length of the shark is unknown.

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.

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