Lifeguards explain protocol when sharks are spotted

 

Less than 24 hours after a shark bit off a German visitor’s arm on Maui, state and county officials gave the all clear and reopened a two-mile stretch of beach.

Some are asking how do officials determine when it’s safe to go back into the water?

Honolulu County lifeguards gave KHON2 their operation protocol when a shark is spotted in the water. Its size and behavior is what determines how long warnings are posted.

Any time a person is bit, signs stay up until at least noon the next day. But if a shark is under eight feet and non-aggressive, no signs are posted.

With eight shark bites this year and a 10-year high of 11 incidents last year, more beachgoers are paying closer attention to what’s out there.

“There seems to be a lot of sightings on Maui lately,” Maui resident John Swanson said.

Swanson snapped photos of a shark on Aug. 8 from his balcony in Kihei.

“But I took one look at it and thought that is not a grey reef shark,” Swanson said. “It appeared to be circling in certain areas, then go out further like it was hunting or feeding.”

Experienced divers say it pays to be aware. When someone enters the water, he or she is in their territory.

“They are out there, they are looking for food. You may be at wrong place at wrong time,” diver Cody Labra said.

Labra and his dive partner Brian Graziano came across a tiger shark earlier this year off Oahu’s North Shore.

“Sometimes it will surprise us because they will come out of nowhere. One minute you won’t see anything and the next they are there,” Labra said.

Here’s some tips to remember when in the water:

  • Have a buddy
  • Stay out of the water at dawn and dusk
  • Avoid murky waters and steep drop-offs
  • Avoid high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry
  • Go to beaches patrolled by lifeguards

The state says it’s important to keep these incidents in perspective.

In Hawaii, the chances of being bitten by a shark are less than one in a million.

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