Local diver has rare encounter with blue shark in waters off Kona

Courtesy: Deron Verbeck

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Deron Verbeck and a friend were fishing two miles off Kona on Monday when they spotted something splashing in the ocean.

“I looked back behind my boat and I saw something pop maybe 50-feet behind my boat. I thought it was like a rare whale a small whale,” Verbeck said.

But when Verbeck saw its tail, he knew it was a shark, but not just any shark.

“I pulled up next to it and says it’s a blue shark, which is like really rare. I lived here 21 years and I’ve only seen one,” Verbeck said.

Verbeck sensed something was wrong.

“This thing was swimming on the surface and it was swimming really erratic. And then it would flip up on one side and flipped upside down and then I could see the wound in its face,” Verbeck said.

He grabbed his camera, jumped in the ocean, and starting taking pictures. He was appalled by what he saw.

“It’s got damage to the left jaw, it looks like gunshot wound. People have been commenting about a cookie cutter shark but it’s like an explosion, the meat is pulling out, not a clean-cut like a cookie cutter does,” Verbeck said.

He estimates the blue shark was about eight-feet long.

“And then on the top of the head it has two marks where it had beaten. Pretty sad to see,” Verbeck said.

Although blue sharks are found worldwide in tropical waters, including Hawaii, seeing one is not common. Night divers report seeing them roaming closer to shore at twilight, returning to the open ocean before sunrise.

Verbeck says his rare sighting is bittersweet.

“It’s going to die eventually. It’s just going to starve to death, it can’t hunt. It’s flipping upside down. Just to pull it up and shoot it and then turn it loose it doesn’t make any sense,” Verbeck said.

The incident saddens him.

“These animals are out there. They’re the wolves, they’re the lions, they’re the cheetahs the leopards of the ocean and they’ve got to be respected not feared,” Verbeck said.

Under state law, it is not illegal to shoot a shark.

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