LAHAINA, Hawaii (KHON2) — An oceanic blacktip is believed to be the shark that bit woman on Maui.
A Kauai woman is recovering after being bitten by a shark near Lahaina on Sunday, Nov. 7.
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State officials are not certain what species of shark bit her but the victim told officials she believed it was a blacktip shark or a Galapagos.
Some details remain unknown, like whether the woman speared a fish at the time of the attack, but according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources website, this would be the seventh shark attack so far this year.
One Maui resident told KHON2 he dives at Mala Wharf often. He said there are always sharks there, and typically they don’t bother people. On Sunday there was one acting aggressively.
Andriy Alyeksyeyevych said he typically sees blacktip and white tip sharks at Mala Wharf, and he was diving about 200 feet from shore on Sunday.
He said the sharks are typically calm and peaceful, but noticed there were more sharks than usual in the area on Sunday. The visibility was about 15 to 20 feet.
He said he noticed a shark moving quickly in different directions which he said is unusual.
“Then that shark just turned towards me and just going straight to my direction,” Alyeksyeyevych recalled.
He said the shark bumped into him, and he blew bubbles and tried to make noise to alert others nearby that there was an aggressive shark.
He said he noticed four to five people spearfishing nearby.
KHON2 shared the video of the alleged shark to expert Carl Meyer, who said the shark in the video is an oceanic blacktip shark.
He said they’re common in Hawaii waters and usually aren’t aggressive.
“They eat small fishes and octopus and things like that,” Meyer explained. “They don’t bite people very often. When they do bite them, it’s typically minor injuries, and the most common interactions where people are bitten by the species are in surf zones where the visibility is poor.”
He said it’s unusual to have aggression by oceanic blacktips in clear water against a diver, but if someone is spearfishing, “that’s a bit of a game-changer because you’re putting an attractant in the water if they spear a fish.”
He said if someone has speared a fish, and they’re attacked, it’s classified as a provoked attack because of the presence of the attractant.
It’s unknown whether the woman or any of the people she was diving with had speared a fish.
“It’s not unprecedented for them to bite people who are not spearfishing or in clear water, but it’s certainly unusual,” Meyer said.
“If you have speared a fish, and there’s a shark present and it’s hungry, it will become very excited by the by the speared fish,” Meyer continued. “So it’s coming in because of the smell of the fish. It’s not coming after you.”
Most shark attacks in Hawaii occur from October through December.
Meyer says that research is based on tiger shark biology, and this attack was definitely not a tiger shark.
He said shark attacks remain extremely rare considering the number of people in the water every year.
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Alyeksyeyevych said he saw the woman get bandaged up on shore and being treated by the ambulance, he said she was smiling and the injuries didn’t appear to be severe.