UH researchers tag 15 sharks off Maui

UH researchers tag 15 sharks off Maui
Published: Oct. 24, 2013 at 11:55 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 25, 2013 at 12:07 AM HST
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KIHEI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - One day after a shark attacked a diver, Maui authorities reopened a beach in Waiehu. Meanwhile, a team from the University of Hawaii just launched a new study to track the movement of tiger sharks in Maui waters. Researchers believe sharks are wide-ranging animals that don't spend a lot of time in certain spots, but experts are trying to determine what may be causing an unprecedented spike in attacks during the last two years.

"Are they more resident around Maui? Are they spending more time in shallow habitats used by people in the waters around Maui than the other Hawaiian islands?" explained Carl Meyer of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

Half of the 10 reported attacks this year took place off the Valley Isle, including the latest bite by an aggressive reef shark off Waiehu.

"It's very unfortunate when anybody gets bitten by a shark and I was relieved to hear that it was at the minor end of the scale," Meyer said.

The team captured 14 tiger sharks and one sandbar shark using baited-hooks last week between Kihei and Makena. All the tiger sharks ranged in size from 8 to 14+ feet in length. The team turned them over to calm them before implanting acoustic tags that will be monitored by underwater receivers. 8 of the largest sharks also received dorsal-fin mounted satellite tags.

"We've already seen that some of those animals that we captured off Kihei went round to the north side of the island by Honolua and also over to Kahoolawe," said Meyer.

The cost for the study is $186,000. The state will decide if special action is needed once the research answers a key question:

"Whether these recent shark bite incidents are best explained by pure chance and perhaps an ever increasing number of people who are engaged in ocean recreation or whether in fact there are some substantive differences in the way that sharks behave around Maui," said Meyer.

The team will head back to Maui next month to tag sharks in other areas, including Waiehu and Olowalu.

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