Shark expert confirms, great white in Hawaiian waters

Published: Jan. 13, 2012 at 11:44 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2012 at 1:30 AM HST
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By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WAIANAE (HawaiiNewsNow) - "Look right next to the boat, great white shark. A twelve to fourteen footer," fisherman Addison Toki can be heard saying as he took video of a shark circling a fishing boat several miles off Yokohama Bay on Oahu's Waianae Coast.

Shark expert Kim Holland took one look at the video and agreed with Toki. The shark is a great white.

"You can do that by a process of elimination. You can tell what it is not. It's not a tiger shark. It is not a hammerhead. It is not an oceanic white tip because it doesn't have any white tips on its fins. It's not a black tip. And just the overall shape and coloration and the shape of the tail, it all points to it being a great white, or a white shark," Holland, who heads the Shark Lab at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay.

"Great whites have been known to be in Hawaii for quite a long time. Back in the 1960's when the University had a shark survey program, they caught a great white. They've been seen here on video. We know from our own research program that we've detected white sharks with tags on them that were tagged originally off of Mexico or off of Southern California.

Holland says as many as ten different sharks tagged with electronic devices off California and Mexico have made the trip to Hawaii. Only a very small percentage of the sharks are tagged so there is no telling how many great whites actually make the trip.

"We really don't have a feel yet for the magnitude of this behavior, but certainly it's not rare for great whites to be in Hawaii," Holland said.

The reason they come to Hawaii is still a mystery.

"It probably makes sense to them, but we don't know what it is yet. Our number of detections, the number of tracks that have been obtained aren't large enough for us to make those type of interpretations. We do know that we've detected them here in every season of the year," Holland said.

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