From 2007 to 2017, there were 69 people who were attacked by sharks in Hawaii. So far this year, there have been two attacks.
However, a spike occurred in 2013 when 12 people were attacked, including seven on Maui—which resulted in three fatalities.
Shark experts say they don’t know why or when sharks attack but know tiger sharks like to frequent Maui.
“We detect at least one tiger shark at Makena on around 90% of our monitor days—so that’s now every day since October 2013,” said Carl Meyer of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.
“Most of the time they ignore people and we don’t really understand what drives the rare circumstances when sharks actually do end up biting somebody,” Meyer adds.
But when sharks do attack, is it considered provoked?
A man who died off Makena in 2013 was fishing on his kayak, with his legs in dangling in the water, when he was attacked. His death was marked as an provoked attack.
“A person just bobbing around is probably more of a target than someone swimming, surfing, or diving because tiger sharks make a living scavenging things off of the surface,” says Kim Holland with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.
Experts say tiger sharks are cautious and timid, and attacks could be a case of mistaken identity.
“Tigers are known to pray on variety of things found on the surface including turtles, and dead things —so it might not be the surfboard looks like a turtle, it might just be there’s something at the surface that’s worthy of an investigation because the surface is where they like to eat,” Meyer adds.
Experts add that attacks in South Maui are more frequent because it’s surrounded by resorts, shoreline access and lots of people in the water.
“There are very few bites around the rugged Eastern shores of Maui and that’s probably got less to do with the shark in their habitat and more to do with where people go into water on a regular basis,” Meyer added.
The habitat between the shoreline and 600 feet is ideal for tiger sharks, experts say. They add that tiger sharks also like areas that have strong currents.
As for tiger sharks favorite spot on Oahu?
“They really like Kahuku Point—but there isn’t very many people in the water at Kahuku Point so there isn’t the same juxtaposition of people in the water,” Holland adds.
Experts say July through October is pupping season for tiger sharks, with the majority of attacks occurring in October.