"The rains we're experiencing wash a lot of material from streams into the ocean," said Laura H. Thielen, DLNR chairperson. "This may include dead animals and stream fish weakened by exposure to salt water, which will attract sharks. Also, the murky water conditions found near stream mouths are known to increase the chances of people getting bit by sharks."
Besides the increased risk caused by heavy rains, the time of year may also warrant extra caution.
"We know that more people are bit by sharks during the months of October through December than at other times of the year, even though fewer people are in the water," said DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources education coordinator Randy Honebrink. "We're not sure exactly why that happens, but generally rainier weather may have something to do with it. For centuries native Hawaiians have known about the increased risk at this time of year."
Despite this increased risk, the chances of getting bit by a shark in Hawaiian waters are extremely small, less than one in a million. Still, DLNR recommends that the public follows these safety tips:
1. Swim, surf, or dive with other people, and don't move too far away from assistance.
2. Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk, and night, when some species of sharks may move inshore to feed.
3. Do not enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding in any way. Sharks can detect blood and body fluids in extremely small concentrations.
4. Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances, and areas near stream mouths (especially after heavy rains), channels, or steep dropoffs. These types of waters are known to be frequented by sharks.
5. Do not wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry. Sharks see contrast very well.
6. Refrain from excessive splashing; keep pets, which swim erratically, out of the water. Sharks are known to be attracted to such activity.
7. Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present, and leave the water quickly and calmly if one is sighted. Do not provoke or harass a shark, even a small one.
8. If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water. Avoid swimming near dolphins, as they are prey for some large sharks.
9. Remove speared fish from the water or tow them a safe distance behind you. Do not swim near people fishing or spearfishing. Stay away from dead animals in the water.
10. Swim or surf at beaches patrolled by lifeguards, and follow their advice.