Researchers study nature of sharks in Hawaii waters


Maui has experienced a higher number of shark attacks than in previous years and scientists have been trying to find out why.

Scientists continue to study shark movements, especially here in Hawaii where we are surrounded by water.

Researchers have learned sharks prefer a certain type of habitat.

“They’ve showed that in certain locations, the sharks tend to swim by pretty regularly,” said Waikiki Aquarium director Andrew Rossiter. “They seem to be swimming along the depth grade beneath the ocean so they tend to converge at certain places and if there’s a point of land where this depth occurs, people go in the water, they’re coinciding with sharks.”

Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa found that many sharks prefer a type of “shelf habitat” shallower than 600 feet.

Although sharks swim far out into the ocean, they have been detected in the area between the coast and up to 10 miles offshore around Maui.

Experts also say sharks will attack if provoked, or if they believe an object is food.

“They do an exploratory bite and if they think it’s going to be food, they come back to eat it. But in the case of a human, that exploratory bite can be fatal,” Rossiter said.

Since 2013, UH researchers have been using tracking devices to study tiger shark movements around Maui and Oahu. Right now, they’re following 24 sharks in Hawaiian waters.

A website that shows the movements of the sharks reveals a cluster around Maui.

Experts say sharks like to hang out in certain areas of the ocean, but they don’t stick around for very long. That’s why experts believe the shark that attacked the woman Wednesday morning is likely long gone.

Tiger sharks on Maui are found in popular surfing and swimming beaches, but scientists are still trying to figure out why Maui has a higher rate of shark bites than Oahu.

Experts say the risk of being bitten is extremely small, and there are things you can do to reduce it even further.

Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk and night, when some species of shark may move inshore to feed, don’t go in the water if you’re bleeding, don’t wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry, which can attract sharks and avoid murky water.

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