HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is issuing a warning to oceangoers: The risk of shark bites is higher in October.
"We recommend ocean users exercise a little more caution this month especially, and also through the end of the year," said state Division of Aquatic Resources Administrator Bruce Anderson, in a news release. "The chance of being bitten by a shark in Hawaiian waters is always extremely small, but does increase a bit during this time frame."
State data shows that from 1980 to 2015, there were 122 unprovoked shark bites in Hawaiian water. One-fifth of those – or 26 – happened in October.
Last October, there were three shark bites. There were two in October 2012, three in October 2013, and four in October 2014.
"The three bites last October were all around Oahu, off different coasts of the island, and took place over a span of 20 days," Anderson said. " Two were very serious, with victims losing part of a limb. It was an unprecedented spike, but like nearly every spike in shark incidents, the most likely explanation is just chance."
UH researchers think they know why shark bites likely go up in October: About 25 percent of the female tiger sharks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands migrate to the main islands in the fall to give birth.
The increased number of sharks in near shore waters, combined with their need to feed to replenish lost energy stores, may increase the likelihood of a bad encounter with a human.
"The best thing ocean users can do to minimize their risk of shark bites is to utilize beaches with lifeguards, stay near other people, and don't go too far from shore," Anderson said. "Also, avoid murky water and areas near stream mouths."
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