Shark Attacks Need Perspective.
Off and on over the past eight or ten years, there have been several stories in the media about shark attacks here in Hawaii. Statewide over the past decade, we’ve averaged about six or seven a year and that does reflect an increase over prior decades. State officials don’t see any significance to that, although there are a couple of interesting conclusions drawn from the data.
First, it’s just a matter of numbers: there are more tourists coming every year, which means more people in the water, so the odds of shark attacks increase proportionately.
Second, there are more sharks around Maui than have been spotted off the other islands. Marine scientists feel that has to do with a “shelf” extending out into the ocean from Maui, which means there’s more shallow water here, inducing swimmers and people on boards to go farther out from shore.
Still—and isn’t this always the case, whether it’s sharks in Hawaii or grizzly bears in Alaska—much of the blame goes to the humans who (1) go out too far, (2) swim around dawn or at dusk, and (3) are in murky waters caused by streams flowing down from the mountains carrying all kinds of trash and junk out into the ocean—stuff that attracts these animals.
Finally, it’s believed that most if not all of these attacks are by tiger sharks, which are bigger and more aggressive than any of the other species we have in Hawaiian waters.
The bottom line, however, is that the chances of someone being attacked by a shark are so remote as to be not worth worrying about. Just don’t swim around dawn or dusk; stay out of murky water; and don’t swim alone.