Specialist analyzes psyche of a shark that ignored surfers

Randy Honebrink
Randy Honebrink

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

NORTH SHORE, OAHU (KHNL) - Lifeguards are keeping a close eye on any signs of danger along Oahu's North Shore.

Chopper 8 was above Papailoa Beach Tuesday. It's also known as Police Beach.

That's where warning signs have been lifted, a day after a shark was spotted prowling in the waters and a turtle was found bitten.

It's amazing video like no other. Chopper 8 caught the shark lunging after a school of fish, with a couple of surfers nearby.

The buzz is, why didn't it attack the surfers? A sharks specialist gave a play-by-play.

It's a one-of-a-kind birds eye view of a shark scouting out its prey on Oahu's North Shore.

"It almost seems like it's halfway between the surfers and the ball of fish," said Randy Honebrink, a shark specialist with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Aquatic Resources Division.

Chopper 8 captured the shark in stealth mode, gliding slowly, sneaking around the unsuspecting surfers off Police Beach on Monday. But a split second later, the shark decided to launch its assault on a school of fish instead - a seeming contradiction to stereotypical shark behavior.

"It doesn't surprise you?"

"No. That's really typical shark behavior. They leave people alone," Honebrink.

"Given a choice of a school of fish and a surfer it's going to go for the school of fish because that's its natural prey," he said.

Analyzing the video, Honebrink says the shark is probably a Blacktip.

"It's definitely not a tiger shark," he said.

Tiger sharks are larger and more dangerous than a Blacktip.

"I can't think of a single case where there's been a confirmed Blacktip bite on a person in Hawaii," said Honebrink.

Honebrink says he's seen Blacktips cruise around swimmers, and ignore them. Though based on the shark Chopper 8 caught in action, hunting at full speed, it's easy to see why they have an intimidating reputation.

"It's really cool video because you don't get to see that very often. It's very natural behavior and the best way to see it is from a helicopter over a light colored bottom like that," said Honebrink.

Although warning signs are down, Ocean Safety crews on Tuesday sent a lifeguard to drive up and down Laniakea and Police beach to keep an extra eye out for sharks.

As of Tuesday, there was no word of any more sightings.