A sign warning beachgoers of a shark sighting is posted along Oahu's north shore (File image)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Hawaii is experiencing a spike in shark attacks, according to researchers. In only eight days, sharks attacked two swimmers in the water off of Oahu’s famous shoreline, bringing the total number of shark attacks statewide this year to six.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, a man was critically injured when a shark bit his feet as he swam just offshore of Lanikai Beach in windward Oahu – a spot often ranked among the Top 10 beaches in the nation. It happened just over a week after another man lost most of his left leg and some of the fingers on his left hand when a shark attacked him at a surf spot along Oahu’s famed north shore.
Prior to these two attacks, the last Oahu incident was in 2013.
The leading theory for why Hawaii has seen an increase in attacks is simple: There are more people in the water.
“The number of people living in Hawaii and using the ocean for recreation has increased over time, and this is the single most likely reason for a higher number of shark bites in recent years,” said Dr. Carl Meyer with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii.
Another possible contributing factor takes into account the natural life cycle of sharks in Hawaiian waters.
Most of the attacks occur in fall months. Over the past few decades, nearly one-third of all shark bite incidents in the state happened during the months of October and November, said Meyer, noting that “pupping season” for tiger sharks occurs during those same months.
“It is possible that pregnant and postpartum female tiger sharks are feeding more frequently than other individuals, as these hungry females try to replenish their diminished energy reserves,” said Meyer.
Whatever the reason, marine biologists point out that the number of bites annually is far lower than the number of people in the water, but everyone should exercise caution in the ocean.
Ocean safety experts offer the following tips:
Surf and swim with other people
Stay within view of lifeguards
Stay out of murky water
Do not enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding
Leave the water quickly and calmly if a shark is sighted. Excessive splashing is known to attract sharks