Categorized | Education, Featured, Health, Sports

DLNR cautions ocean users that October is the peak month for shark incidents

MEDIA RELEASE

Pua ka wiliwili nanahu ka mano. ‘When the wiliwili tree flowers, the shark bites.’– ‘Olelo No‘eau, Mary Kawena Pukui

HONOLULU — For centuries, traditional Hawaiian chants have warned about an increased risk of shark bites in the fall, when the wiliwili tree blooms. According to the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), that warning is still appropriate.

“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.”

This graphic depicts only confirmed unprovoked incidents (years 1980-2015), defined by the International Shark Attack File as “incidents where an attack on a live human by a shark occurs in its natural habitat without human provocation of the shark. Incidents involving…shark-inflicted scavenge damage to already dead humans (most often drowning victims), attacks on boats, and provoked incidents occurring in or out of the water are not considered unprovoked attacks.” Graph courtesy of Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

This graphic depicts only confirmed unprovoked incidents (years 1980-2015), defined by the International Shark Attack File as “incidents where an attack on a live human by a shark occurs in its natural habitat without human provocation of the shark. Incidents involving…shark-inflicted scavenge damage to already dead humans (most often drowning victims), attacks on boats, and provoked incidents occurring in or out of the water are not considered unprovoked attacks.” Graph courtesy of Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

According to DAR data, from 1980 through 2015 there were 122 unprovoked shark bites in Hawaiian waters. 26 of those, or 21%, occurred during the month of October, with well-known victims such as Michael Coots (1997) and Bethany Hamilton (2003) suffering loss of limb. So far, no October bite has been fatal.

In 2012 there were two bites in October. In October 2013 there were three, then four in October 2014, and three in October 2015. DAR’s Anderson noted, “The three bites last October were all around O‘ahu, off different coasts of the island, and took place over a span of 20 days. Two were very serious, with victims losing part of a limb. It was an unprecedented spike, but like nearly every spike in shark incidents, the most likely explanation is just chance.”

University of Hawai‘i researchers, funded in part by DAR, have confirmed the fall spike, and offered a possible explanation, at least in part. About 25% of the female tiger sharks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands migrate to the main islands in the fall to give birth. The increased number of sharks in near shore waters, combined with their need to feed to replenish lost energy stores, may increase the likelihood of a bad encounter with a human.

Anderson offers the following advice, “The best thing ocean users can do to minimize their risk of shark bites is to utilize beaches with lifeguards, stay near other people, and don’t go too far from shore. Also, avoid murky water and areas near stream mouths.” More safety tips can be found at the Division’s shark web site, hawaiisharks.org

This graphic includes both provoked and unprovoked incidents by type of activity (years 1950-2015) in which shark involvement was confirmed. Provoked incidents are defined by the International Shark Attack File as occurring “when a human initiates physical contact with a shark, e.g. a diver bit after grabbing a shark, a fisher bit while removing a shark from a net, and attacks on spearfishers and those feeding sharks.” Unprovoked incidents are those “where an attack on a live human by a shark occurs in its natural habitat without human provocation of the shark. Incidents involving…shark-inflicted scavenge damage to already dead humans (most often drowning victims), attacks on boats, and provoked incidents occurring in or out of the water are not considered unprovoked attacks.” Courtesy of Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

This graphic includes both provoked and unprovoked incidents by type of activity (years 1950-2015) in which shark involvement was confirmed.
Provoked incidents are defined by the International Shark Attack File as occurring “when a human initiates physical contact with a shark, e.g. a diver bit after grabbing a shark, a fisher bit while removing a shark from a net, and attacks on spearfishers and those feeding sharks.”
Unprovoked incidents are those “where an attack on a live human by a shark occurs in its natural habitat without human provocation of the shark. Incidents involving…shark-inflicted scavenge damage to already dead humans (most often drowning victims), attacks on boats, and provoked incidents occurring in or out of the water are not considered unprovoked attacks.” Courtesy of Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

More info: dlnr.hawaii.gov/sharks/shark-i…

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