State cautions ocean goers that October peak month for shark encounters

Tiger shark (File photo)
Tiger shark (File photo)

The state is advising ocean users to be extra cautious when going in the water this month. That’s because shark bites tend to peak at this time of year.

Officials say that within the past 25 years, there have been 122 unprovoked shark attacks in Hawaiian waters, with 21 percent of those happening during the month of October. So far, no October bite has been fatal.

In 2012, there were two bites in October. In October 2013, there were three, then four in October 2014, and three in October 2015. DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources administrator Bruce Anderson noted that “the three bites last October were all around Oahu, off different coasts of the island, and took place over a span of 20 days. 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,” he said.

University of Hawaii researchers (funded in part by DAR) have confirmed the fall spike, and offered a possible explanation, at least in part. 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.

To minimize your risk of being attacked, the state suggests going to beaches with lifeguards, stay near other people, don’t venture too far from shore, and avoid murky water and areas near stream mouths.

More safety tips can be found at the Division’s shark web site at

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