Public warned of spike in shark attacks in October

Shark warning signs were posted Tuesday at Davidson’s Beach, near Kekaha on the southwest side of Kauai.

The signs are a reminder to surfers and ocean lovers to be cautious and aware during October, which is known to have a higher number of shark attacks.

If you look at 40 years of data, there is a spike in October that is statistically higher than the rest of the year,” said Kim Holland from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

KHON2 asked Holland why we see more shark attacks in October.

“We really don’t know the answer, because our research indicates that the highest number of sharks, tiger sharks in Hawaii, is actually in winter, not in the fall,” Holland said.

Holland says large sharks are in coastal Hawaiian waters all the time and “there’s no direct link between the number of sharks around Hawaii’s waters and the number of shark attacks.”

He says there is, however, one thing many shark attacks have in common.

“The most dangerous circumstances are around muddy waters, murky waters around river mouths, especially after rains, because tiger sharks feed on dead animals that get washed down in those circumstances. They already have bad eye sight, and muddy water makes things even worse,” he said.

Holland says there is no way to avoid becoming a victim of a shark attack if you are a surfer or participate in ocean sports, but he urges people to remember to use common sense.

“The best safety procedure for anybody going in the water is to always go with somebody else. Go surfing with a buddy, or go surfing or swimming where there are already people in the water,” Holland said, “because if there’s more than one person in the water, the person that does not get attacked can get help.”

Holland added that although there is a spike in shark attacks in October, shark attacks overall are still uncommon, and knowing what led to the attack is difficult to determine because we don’t know the state of a shark before the attack.

“We don’t know if that shark had been chasing natural prey that got away, but the shark was still excited. We don’t know if that’s a shark that for some reason is hungrier than other sharks, because it’s just come from hundreds of miles out from sea and hasn’t eaten for a long time,” he explained. “We just don’t know because we don’t know anything about the shark before the attack actually happened.”

Holland added that “most shark attacks, even though they’re bad and scary, do not result in death.”

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