Maui tops the list in shark attacks statewide

Beaches surrounding White Rock Beach on Maui are open after a shark attack closed the two-mile stretch of shoreline on Wednesday.

A 20-year-old German visitor screamed for help while snorkeling off Maui Wednesday afternoon. A group from California swam out to help.

“She was in and out of saying these words, ‘I’m dying. I’m going to die.’ I kept saying, ‘No, you’re not. No, you’re not. We’re going to get you to shore, we’re going to save you,’” rescuer Rick Moore said.

A shark had bitten off the woman’s right arm, below the shoulder. Moore performed CPR until medics arrived. The victim was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

Shark experts, like Dr. Andrew Rossiter with the Waikiki Aquarium, believe this case is a common one of mistaken identity.

“If the water is cloudy, the shark can’t see very well and they mistake you as food,” Dr. Rossiter said.

First responders said the water was choppy with limited visibility in Wednesday’s attack.

“Many of them are hit-and-run and we don’t know. But the ones that have been identified are almost always without exception in Hawaii, tiger sharks,” Dr. Rossiter said.

Since 2001, there have been 65 shark incidents statewide including Wednesday’s attack.

The majority, 43 percent, have happened on Maui, followed by Oahu, then Kauai, and further down the list the Big Island.

So why the Valley Isle?

“Maui has more people in the water than any other given time. We have a lot of resorts along entire Leeward coast and thousands of people in the water every day,” Department of Land and Natural Resources aquatic biologist Russell Sparks said.

“Is this a spike in shark incidents?” KHON2 asked.

“I don’t think it’s a spike. It’s a little bit of a tick up,” Dr. Rossiter said.

The state DLNR says spear fishermen have been reporting increased boldness of large sharks on Maui. But there’s no hard evidence to back up those claims.

A first-of-its-kind study this fall will track tiger sharks to see if they behave differently in Maui waters compared to elsewhere in the state.

“That way you can download data and see how often a particular shark frequents a certain area,” Sparks said.

The only shark attack to kill a person in the past 10 years was on Maui in 2004. His Injuries were consistent with a tiger shark bite. He was surfing at the time.

Surfers have had the most encounters with sharks over the years, followed by swimmers and snorkelers. Spearfishing and bodyboarding round out the top five ocean activities involving shark incidents.

“It’s a lottery really, but the numbers will go up if people insist in swimming in the early morning, or early evening when sharks are out hunting, or at the mouth of rivers, or in murky waters,” Dr. Rossiter said.

Shark incidents show there is really no specific time of year when attacks are more common since people are in the water year-round.

Additional Information:

Between 2001 and 2013 there have been 65 total shark incidents in Hawaii

  • Maui – 28
  • Oahu – 16
  • Kauai – 10
  • Big Island – 8
  • Lanai – 2
  • Molokai – 1

Shark incidents for water activities:

  • Surfing – 29
  • Swimming – 11
  • Snorkeling – 10
  • Spearfishing – 5
  • Bodyboarding – 4
  • Wading – 3
  • Stand-up Paddleboarding – 2
  • Kiteboarding – 1

This year, there were eight shark incidents, five of which were on Maui.

For more information on Hawaii shark incidents, visit this website.

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