header recent press releases

AUGUST 20, 2013
DLNR watching shark incidents statewide, planning study
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is initiating a study of tiger shark movements in island waters.

“DLNR is paying close attention to the recent series of shark incidents statewide,” said William Aila, DLNR chairperson. "These appear to be random events involving sharks of different species and different sizes. There's nothing we can yet discern that connects the incidents or provides any sort of explanation."

In 2013, there have been eight incidents, including four within the last month. Four of this year’s incidents occurred on Maui, three on the Big Island, and one on Oahu. In 2012, there were 10 confirmed, unprovoked shark incidents, the highest number ever recorded. Six of last year's 10 incidents occurred on Maui. At the time, Aila convened a meeting of shark experts and public safety personnel, similar to the Shark Task Force of the 1990s that guided shark management decisions at that time.

At last year's meeting, Aila asked University of Hawaii researchers to submit a proposal to specifically study tiger shark movements around Maui and see how their behavior compares with known movement patterns around the other main Hawaiian Islands. The results will help determine whether any management options should be considered. The study, led by Dr. Carl Meyer, will begin next month at a cost of $186,000 over two years.

Aila noted: "As we look at numbers of incidents per year over the last two decades or so, we see a lot of variation from year to year, including years with no incidents or just one incident. Recently, there's been an average of about three or four incidents per year. But every few years there's a little spike, and we've now seen an unprecedented spike."

These spikes in activity occur worldwide. In recent years, West Australia, Reunion Island, Egypt, Brazil, and other locations have seen their own versions of increased shark incident activity, many of them fatal. In some cases, human behavior -- such as introduction of shark attractants into the water -- has been considered a contributing factor. In other cases, no change in environmental conditions or other possible factors could be identified.

"Historically, October through December are the months when the rate of shark incidents increases,” Aila added. “This is part of traditional Hawaiian knowledge, reinforced by our own statistics. So we urge people to be extra cautious, and follow our suggestions for reducing the chances of being bit.

"Remember that sharks play an important role in marine ecosystems, and the ocean is their home. We're the visitors. Going into the ocean is a wilderness experience. There are animals out there that can hurt you. The chances of something like that happening are incredibly small, given how many people are in the water every day. There are precautions you can take to make those chances even smaller."

APRIL 18, 2013
UH SOEST and Hawai'i DAR researchers provide new understanding of rare white shark movement around Hawai'i
A study just published in the Journal of Marine Biology sheds new light on the relatively rare but occasionally recorded presence of white sharks in waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, and suggests a new method to help distinguish between white sharks and close relatives, such as mako sharks. The paper, titled “Occurrence of White Sharks in Hawaiian Waters”, was written by Kevin Weng of the University of Hawai‘i – Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and Randy Honebrink of the Hawai‘i DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR).

According to William Aila, chairperson of the State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, “This study is valuable in that it provides a better understanding of the biology and behavior of white sharks, which is very useful for management purposes. White sharks were caught by pre-contact Hawaiians, and their teeth used in weapons and other implements. But in many ways they continue to mystify us today.”

Satellite tracking studies have previously shown that Hawai‘i’s white sharks are migrants from population centers off California and Mexico. A relatively small proportion of those West Coast sharks migrate all the way to Hawai‘i, which is why they are so rarely seen.

The authors reviewed all available sources of information relating to white sharks in Hawai‘i, including newspaper accounts of shark attacks, shark control program catch records, photos and videos from various sources, and satellite tracking data. Only data that could be confirmed as pertaining to white sharks was included in the analysis. In cases where information was insufficient for positive species identification, the sightings were eliminated.

According to Dr. Weng, “We learned that white sharks occur in Hawai‘i across a broader part of the annual cycle than previously thought – we recorded observations from every month except November. This is important for our understanding of white shark life history and population.”

Since all records of white sharks in Hawaiian waters are of individuals larger than 3.3 meters (10.8 feet), and no juveniles have ever been reported, there is no evidence of white sharks being residents or pupping here.

Scientists have learned a great deal about the migratory patterns of white sharks in the Eastern Pacific since the advent of satellite tracking, but important questions remain. “Our satellite tracking studies have been conducted in places where we can get very close to the animals – seal colonies – but this means that we may be sampling a subset of the population, and thus obtaining biased results,” said Weng. “It is possible that there are individuals that do not aggregate around seal colonies.”

“Male and female white sharks have different migration patterns,” explained Weng. “Males have been recorded in Hawai‘i from December through June, but females have been observed here all year round.” Female white shark visits to Hawai‘i may be related to a two-year reproductive cycle, in which they return to coastal aggregation sites off California and Mexico on alternating years. That leaves them with more time to spend in Hawai‘i, where warmer water temperatures may speed up fetal development. Our results are consistent with a very recent paper by Domeier and Nasby-Lucas in the journal “Animal Biotelemetry.”

Misidentification of similar looking sharks, such as makos, has been a recurring problem. A recent example was the sighting of a shortfin mako shark off Ka‘ena Point, O‘ahu, on Jan. 12, 2012. This sighting, captured on a video that “went viral,” was reported around the world as a white shark by the news media, an error that continues to this day.

This study proposes a simple method to help distinguish between the two species based on the shape of the head. Mako sharks have a more acute head shape than white sharks. Since many sightings only obtain photographs of the head, this method should be helpful for situations with limited information and no specimen.

K Weng and R Honebrink, Journal of Marine Biology Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 598745, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/598745.
Supplemental Material: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jmb/2013/598745/sup/
Copyright © 2013 Kevin Weng and Randy Honebrink. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


AUGUST 23, 2012
Public warned to keep out of water around whale carcass in Pahoa
The Department of Land and Natural Resources is warning the public to keep out of the nearshore and ocean waters off Pahoa, due to the presence of tiger sharks that are being attracted to a decomposing 50-foot long sperm whale carcass.

DLNR's aquatic resources and enforcement divisions are working together to post shark warning signs and to direct the public to stay out of the water within one mile on either side of where the carcass located on the rocky shoreline in front of the Hawaiian Beaches Subdivision.

Numerous sharks are present and actively feeding on the carcass in nearshore waters. The carcass is also considered a public nuisance because of its offensive odor.

The state office of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary at DLNR, in partnership with NOAA's Fisheries Service, is working with a private marine salvage company to remove the carcass. The public is advised to remain out of these waters until three days after the carcass is removed. DLNR will issue updates as they become available.

Sperm whales are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act as well as Hawaii Revised Statute Ch. 195-D. Taking and possession of any part of the animal is prohibited without prior authorization from NOAA and the State. Disturbing and tampering with the carcass is also prohibited.

An area resident first reported the carcass in the morning on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. A Hawaii County Fire Department Helicopter confirmed the presence of the carcass by about mid-morning, and it was up against the shore by the afternoon.


JULY 25, 2011
DLNR closure of Waialea Bay and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area due to shark sightings
Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) closed Waialea Bay and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area (SRA) today due shark sightings on Sunday, July 24. Given the recent shark sightings close to shore, DLNR staff deemed it necessary to close the park areas through noon on Tuesday, July 26. Both park entrance gates will be closed.

"The closures of these two areas are precautionary measures to ensure safety of the public," says William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR Chairperson.

According to Hawai'i County Civil Defense, today three tiger sharks were seen in this morning‘s flyover, sizes ranged from 12–14 feet in length. Two tiger sharks were observed by Ocean Safety just north of Hapuna SRA about 20–50 yards off shore. The third tiger shark was observed to the south of Hapuna SRA.


DECEMBER 22, 2010
DLNR reminds public to avoid nearshore murky waters - increased risk of sharks after heavy rains
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) advises the ocean-going public that recent heavy rains, along with forecasts for more rain during the coming week, may increase the presence of sharks in nearshore waters.

"Heavy rains wash a lot of material from streams into the ocean," said DLNR Interim Chairperson, William J. Aila, Jr. "Dead animals, stream fish weakened by exposure to salt water, and rubbish all attract sharks. Murky water conditions found near stream mouths are known to increase the risk of people getting bit by sharks."

Despite this increased risk, the chances of getting bit by a shark in Hawaiian waters are extremely small, less than one in a million. Still, DLNR recommends that the public follow these safety tips:

• Swim, surf, or dive with other people, and don't move too far away from assistance.
• Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk, and night, when some species of sharks may move inshore to feed.
• Do not enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding in any way. Sharks can detect blood and body fluids in extremely small concentrations.
• Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances, and areas near stream mouths (especially after heavy rains), channels, or steep dropoffs. These types of waters are known to be frequented by sharks.
• Do not wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry. Sharks see contrast very well.
• Refrain from excessive splashing; keep pets, which swim erratically, out of the water. Sharks are known to be attracted to such activity.
• Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present, and leave the water quickly and calmly if one is sighted. Do not provoke or harass a shark, even a small one.
• If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water. Avoid swimming near dolphins, as they are prey for some large sharks.
• Remove speared fish from the water or tow them a safe distance behind you. Do not swim near people fishing or spearfishing. Stay away from dead animals in the water.
• Swim or surf at beaches patrolled by lifeguards, and follow their advice.


NOVEMBER 4, 2010
Beach parks along Kohala Coast remain open, caution urged due to continued shark sightings
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Hawaii Fire Department Ocean Safety Division and the Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation are alerting the public and resort hotel managers about repeated sightings of one or more large tiger sharks in Anaehoomalu Bay. Similar shark sightings have occurred in those waters frequently since September.

The Hawaii County Fire Department has done flyovers to confirm sightings reported by hotel personnel or beach vendors.

State and county officials have notified private and public land managers and ocean recreation vendors in the area so they can advise the public to be watchful and cautious, and be prepared to post public warning signs in case of a sighting. Beaches will remain open when no sightings are confirmed.

According to the Division of State Parks, park caretakers were informed by a regular beachgoer that a large shark was sighted yesterday around 2:45 p.m. south of Waialea in the Puako area. A shark was also sighted on Oct, 23 at which time Hapuna beach was closed for the afternoon. State parks officials will post warning signs when a shark is spotted in the swim zones at Waialea or Hapuna State Parks.

"We just want to notify the public of what's happening in the bay," said John Kahiapo, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources Hawaii information specialist.

"This is the time of year historically when there are frequent sightings of large tiger sharks coming close to shore. Yesterday Anaehoomalu beach was closed in the afternoon when a shark was 20 yards off shore, feeding on a turtle. It remained closed until a morning flyover by Hawaii County Fire Department and was then reopened due to no shark being sighted. Previously a shark had passed through and did not appear to be feeding," he said. "Closures are precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the public."

In 2008 there were also multiple confirmed sightings of sharks ranging in size from six to 15 feet in the areas of Waialea Bay and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, to Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor, the Mauna Kea Beach Resort and between Mau'umae Beach and Kawaihae Harbor. Beach parks were closed at intermittent intervals.


SEPTEMBER 12, 2008
Hapuna, Waialea parks along Kohala Coast reopened today, warning signs still posted at Spencer Beach Park
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Hawai‘i Fire Department Water Safety Division and the Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation have reopened Waialea Bay and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area (SRA) today following a morning flyover that did not reveal the presence of large sharks in nearshore waters in these two areas. DLNR parks and aquatics staff will continue to monitor these beach areas.

However the Hawai‘i County Fire Dept.Water Safety Division said that there were 10 to 15 sharks seen north of Spencer Beach Park between Spencer and Kawaihae Harbor.  Shark warning signs are posted today at Spencer Beach Park warning people to stay out of the water - however, the park is open. A reassessment will be done tomorrow in the morning.

“Even though these two beaches are open, we continue to urge people to always exercise caution when entering the ocean,” said Laura H. Thielen, DLNR Chairperson.


SEPTEMBER 11, 2008
Beach parks along Kohala Coast remain closed due to continued shark sightings
Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Hawaii Fire Department Ocean Safety Division and the Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation are continuing the closure of Waialea Bay, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area (SRA), and Spencer County Beach Park, on September 11, due to the confirmed sighting of large sharks still in the area in this morning’s assessment.

According to Hawai‘i County Civil Defense, four sharks were seen in this morning’s flyover:  a 12 -footer was observed by Ocean Safety about 20 yards off shore at Hapuna State Recreation Area.  Another three were seen by the Hawaii Fire Department about 100 to 200 yards off Mau‘umae bay near the Mauna Kea Resort, ranging from 12-16 feet long. One of these sharks was observed by Pu‘u Kohola National Historic Park personnel coming in close to Kawaihae small boat harbor.

“The continued closures of these areas are precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the public,” says Laura H. Thielen, DLNR Chairperson.

Due to the continued sightings of sharks along the Kohala Coast the beaches at these parks will remain closed for the rest of the day until an assessment tomorrow morning in which officials will determine to either open the beaches or issue orders to keep the beaches closed.  Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is closed in its entirety.  Spencer County Beach Park remains open on the park portion; however, water entry is prohibited.

On September 5, the area of Waialea Bay and Hapuna Beach SRA were closed and remained closed throughout the weekend due to a shark sighting in these areas.  September 8, 15 large sharks ranging in size from 6-15 feet of unconfirmed species were sighted from Waialea Bay to Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor (SBH).  On September 9, the assessment confirmed the presence of sharks in the near ocean waters from Waialea Bay to Kawaihae SBH. There was also a confirmed sighting of a 10 foot tiger shark 20 feet off shore from the Mauna Kea Beach Resort.  On September 10 there were confirmed shark sightings between Mau‘umae Beach and Kawaihae Harbor; three beach parks were closed (the entire Hapuna-Waialea SRA was closed; Spencer County Beach Park is closed for routine maintenance through Friday).


NOVEMBER 5, 2007
DLNR reminds public to avoid nearshore murky waters - increased risk of sharks after heavy rains
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) advises the ocean-going public that recent heavy rains may increase the presence of sharks in nearshore waters.

“The rains we’re experiencing wash a lot of material from streams into the ocean,” said Laura H. Thielen, DLNR chairperson. “This may include dead animals and stream fish weakened by exposure to salt water, which will attract sharks. Also, the murky water conditions found near stream mouths are known to increase the chances of people getting bit by sharks.”

Besides the increased risk caused by heavy rains, the time of year may also warrant extra caution. “We know that more people are bit by sharks during the months of October through December than at other times of the year, even though fewer people are in the water,” said DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources education coordinator Randy Honebrink. “We’re not sure exactly why that happens, but generally rainier weather may have something to do with it. For centuries native Hawaiians have known about the increased risk at this time of year.”

Despite this increased risk, the chances of getting bit by a shark in Hawaiian waters are extremely small, less than one in a million. Still, DLNR recommends that the public follow these safety tips:

• Swim, surf, or dive with other people, and don’t move too far away from assistance.
• Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk, and night, when some species of sharks may move inshore to feed.
• Do not enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding in any way. Sharks can detect blood and body fluids in extremely small concentrations.
• Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances, and areas near stream mouths (especially after heavy rains), channels, or steep dropoffs. These types of waters are known to be frequented by sharks.
• Do not wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry. Sharks see contrast very well.
• Refrain from excessive splashing; keep pets, which swim erratically, out of the water. Sharks are known to be attracted to such activity.
• Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present, and leave the water quickly and calmly if one is sighted. Do not provoke or harass a shark, even a small one.
• If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water. Avoid swimming near dolphins, as they are prey for some large sharks.
• Remove speared fish from the water or tow them a safe distance behind you.
• Do not swim near people fishing or spearfishing. Stay away from dead animals in the water.
• Swim or surf at beaches patrolled by lifeguards, and follow their advice.


NOVEMBER 13, 2006
DLNR Advises Public Of Potential Danger From Sharks Following Death of Humpback Whale
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is advising the public to use caution in waters of Holualoa bay on the Kona coast following the death of a young humpback whale today and subsequent feeding by sharks.

Late this afternoon, the vessel Kona Blue rendered assistance and towed the whale carcass out to sea. However, the whale and sharks had come within 125 yards of the shoreline and there was some indication that small pieces of the whale remained in the water.

“We are working with County officials and are prepared to post warning signs should the need arise,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson. “We will continue to monitor the area for presence of sharks through tomorrow,” added Young.

County lifeguards have posted signs at Kahaluu and Magic Sands beaches. Tuesday morning, Hawaii County Fire Department will do a helicopter overflight. A decision to take down warning signs will not be made until after the flight.

“I commend the crew of the Kona Blue for their timely assistance. Thanks also to our staff from the Division of Aquatic Resources who monitored the whale’s position from their vessel today,” he said.


MARCH 9, 2006
DLNR issues safety tips to advise ocean users on water safety
As part of on-going concern for ocean safety, the Department of Land and Natural Resources reminds beachgoers to be cautious when entering the ocean following heavy rains.

“The ocean that surrounds us is a part of our island lifestyle, and in most cases is a safe place for recreation. But it is also the home of marine animals, including sharks, which may be potentially dangerous. Anyone who goes in the ocean needs to use caution and common sense, and to be aware of conditions that may be conducive to the presence of sharks,” said DLNR chairperson Peter Young.

“We encourage swimmers, divers, surfers, boaters, fishers, all ocean users to exercise caution following heavy rains. Avoid murky waters, and areas near stream mouths where run-off may create poor visibility. These types of waters are known to be frequented by sharks,” Young said.

DLNR’s Shark Task Force prepared a list of ten safety tips to reduce the risk of encounter with sharks in the ocean. The tips can be found on the DLNR web site hawaii.sharks.com and include the following:

1. Swim, surf or dive with other people, and don’t move too far away from assistance;
2. Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk and night, when some species of sharks may move inshore to feed;
3. Do not enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding in any way. Sharks can detect blood and body fluids in extremely small concentrations;
4. Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances and areas near stream mouths (especially after heavy rains), channels or steep drop-offs. These types of waters are known to be frequented by sharks;
5. Do not wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry. Sharks see contrast very well;
6. Refrain from excessive splashing; keep pets, which swim erratically, out of the water. Sharks are known to be attracted to such activity;
7. Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present. Leave the water quickly and calmly if one is sighted. Do not provoke or harass a shark, even a small one;
8. If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water. Avoid swimming near dolphins, as they are prey for some large sharks;
9. Remove speared fish from the water or tow them a safe distance behind you. Do not swim near people fishing or spear fishing. Stay away from dead animals in the water;
10. Swim or surf at beaches patrolled by lifeguards and follow their advice.


NOVEMBER 14, 2005
DLNR issues shark warning for waters off Onomea, Hawaii
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is warning the public to stay out of the ocean in the vicinity of Onomea Bay near Kukui Point, East Hawaii, after receiving a report that approximately 4,000 pounds of fish from the wrecked Seven Stars fishing vessel may be entering the water and therefore likely to attract large predators.

"The presence of dead fish would continue to attract sharks to the area for the next several days. We strongly urge the public to refrain from entering the water at Onomea Bay and surrounding areas until we have determined that sharks are no longer in the area," Peter Young, DLNR chairperson, said.


JUNE 30 , 2005
Public warning of shark sightings in Honokohau Harbor
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has received reports of sharks being sighted in Honokohau Harbor on the island of Hawai‘i and is alerting the public that they should refrain from entering the water for swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving in the area because of the heightened threat of shark encounters.

The Department would also like to remind the public that swimming in small boat harbors as well as around boat ramps is prohibited.

Fish remains discarded at near shore and harbor entrance areas attract sharks. Fishermen are warned that this practice is prohibited in accordance with Section 13-232-7 of the Hawaii Administrative Rules pertaining to Hawai‘i's Harbors under the jurisdiction of DLNR's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

For more information about Honokohau Harbor and boating on the island of Hawai‘i, contact:
Nancy Murphy
Hawai‘i Island District Manager
Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation
(808) 329-4997


JUNE 16, 2005
DLNR posts shark warning signs from Honolua Bay to Fleming's Beach
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is warning the public to stay out of the ocean from Honolua Bay to Fleming’s beach, Maui, after receiving a report from a member of the public that sharks were seen in the Honolua-Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District, West Maui.

“Late yesterday afternoon we responded to this call. Our investigations found dozens of dead or dying akule in Honolua Bay. Several sharks — including at least one large tiger shark — were observed feeding on the fish. We posted shark warning signs along the shoreline, from Mokuleia to Fleming's beach, to warn the public not to enter the water,” Peter Young, DLNR chairperson, said.

“This morning, our enforcement and aquatic resources personnel returned to evaluate the situation. They observed several large sharks still feeding on dead fish,” Young said.

“The presence of dead fish will continue to attract sharks to the area for the next several days. We strongly urge the public to refrain from swimming or snorkeling in Honolua and Mokuleia bays, and at Fleming’s beach until we have determined that sharks are no longer in the area,” he said.

DLNR enforcement officers, along with Maui County lifeguards, will continue to keep beachgoers out of the water to ensure their safety, and will monitor the situation.

The cause of the fish kill is currently under review by DLNR.


AUGUST 19, 2004
DLNR launches Hawaii Sharks web site
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) announces the launch of the hawaiisharks.org and hawaiisharks.com web site.

The site provides a wealth of information about sharks: their role in Hawaiian culture, descriptions of all sharks (and their relatives) found in Hawaiian waters, basics of shark biology, shark safety, and data on shark bite incidents.

"The Hawai'i Sharks web site is a natural extension of our work in the areas of outreach and safety. People have a lot of questions about sharks, and the site provides a number of answers. But it also points out how much we still have to learn about these animals," said DLNR chairperson Peter Young.

The information is accompanied by photographs, maps, graphs, and illustrations.

On your first visit, your attention is drawn to the game "Kapu," in which you become a shark keeping the reef clean. The site is a useful resource for students, and is easy to explore. Anyone interested in sharks will find hawaiisharks.com a worthwhile place to visit.

"It's a work in progress," said Randy Honebrink, education coordinator for the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources, which produced the site.  "We will keep adding content to the site over time. And we welcome suggestions on how to make it better."


MARCH 26, 2002
Shark warning signs posted on Kaua‘i
Following a shark attack on March 25, 2002, 150 yards offshore from Brennecke’s Beach on the island of Kaua‘i, DLNR has authorized the posting of shark warning signs on the shoreline between Brennecke’s and the Waiohai Beach Hotel , a distance of approximately one half mile.

Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers, aquatic biologists from the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and Kaua‘i County lifeguards are on site to monitor the situation.


AUGUST 23, 2001
DLNR urges caution in Waianae waters following shark sightings
The Department of Land and Natural Resources is advising ocean users in the Makua and Keawa‘ula (Yokohama) areas of the Waianae coast to exercise caution and be alert to the possible presence of sharks. The advisory follows an observed shark attack on a dolphin off Keawa‘ula this past Sunday.

" The incident on Sunday was the second time in about two weeks that a shark was seen attacking a dolphin in the area, so we feel it's prudent to remind people to avoid behaviors that may increase their risk of injury from sharks," said Randy Honebrink, spokesperson for the State's Shark Task Force.

Large sharks are occasionally, although rarely, observed feeding on dolphins. "These events probably happen much more often than we realize," Honebrink said. "We don't know anything about the condition of the dolphins involved in these particular episodes, but generally sharks would be expected to go after slower or weaker members of a pod."

Large tiger sharks have occasionally been seen in the area shadowing pods of spinner dolphins. Swimmers who attempt to approach dolphins should realize that doing so may significantly increase their risk of injury from sharks.

A variety of ocean users frequent the area, including spearfishers, aquarium fish collectors, surfers, and swimmers. DLNR offers a number of safety tips to help avoid shark injury, including:

• swim, surf, or dive with other people, stay close to shore, and don't move too far away from assistance;
• swim or surf at beaches patrolled by lifeguards, and follow their advice;
• remove speared fish from the water or tow them a safe distance behind you;
• do not swim near people fishing or spearfishing;
• do not enter the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding in any way;
• stay out of the water at dawn, dusk, and night, when some species of sharks may move inshore to feed;
• don't wear high contrast clothing or shiny jewelry;
• keep pets out of the water;
• be alert to the activity of fish or turtles, and leave the water if they start to behave erratically.


AUGUST 1, 2001
DLNR urges water users near Kona's Honokohau Harbor to watch out for sharks
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is advising water users in the area in and around Kailua-Kona's Honokohau Harbor to use caution and be on the alert for the presence of tiger sharks. "We have been receiving an increased number of reports of tiger shark sightings within and just outside the harbor," said Randy Honebrink, spokesperson for the State's Shark Task Force. "Although the reports don't include evidence of aggressive behavior towards people, we want the public to be aware of the possible presence of sharks and to exercise appropriate caution."

On Monday, a large, severely injured green sea turtle was found stranded at Kaloko/Honokohau with the rear third of its body freshly amputated. The turtle died, and the only possible cause for the injury was a large shark. About a week earlier, a large tiger shark was seen feeding on a turtle carcass outside the harbor entrance on the north side of the channel.

Two or three tiger sharks up to about eight feet in length have been seen within Honokohau Harbor during the past two weeks. Last Saturday, a larger shark of unknown size was also seen in the harbor. Tiger sharks are known to be attracted to harbors where fish remains are often discarded. "We are asking fishers who use Honokohau Harbor to refrain from cleaning fish or disposing of their remains within the harbor or nearshore waters," said Honebrink.

On July 27 a tiger shark estimated at 12 feet in length was also seen within Keauhou Bay. Reports indicate it may have been attracted by the remains of dead fish in the bay.

The sightings serve to remind people that potentially dangerous sharks are part of the nearshore marine environment. The Shark Task Force offers a number of safety tips to reduce the risk of shark injury. They include avoiding murky waters and harbor entrances, refraining from swimming near people fishing or spearfishing, staying out of the water where sharks are known to be present, and leaving the water quickly and calmly if a shark is sighted.

In 1999 two people were seriously injured by sharks off the Kona coast. One of the incidents involved a young surfer off Old Kona Airport, which is about two miles south of Honokohau Harbor.


JANUARY 7, 2000
DLNR chair reactivates Shark Task Force
After more than six years of relative inactivity, the State’s shark task force was reconvened Tuesday by DNLR Chairperson Timothy Johns. The task force was originally formed in 1992 as an advisory group to the DLNR to assist in formulating policies on how the State should respond to shark attacks. Former Chair Bill Paty disbanded the task force in August 1993 after the group developed protocols for shark incident response. However, task force members have remained in contact with each other, especially following shark attacks, which average about two to three per year in Hawai‘i.

Tuesday’s meeting had been scheduled prior to the November 23 attack on Laurie Boyett off the Kona Village Resort late last year. That attack, and the October 1 attack on Jesse Spencer off the Old Kona Airport, were discussed in some detail at the meeting. Both incidents resulted in serious injury to the victims.

On December 13, a subgroup of the task force met with Hawai‘i county officials at the request of Big Island mayor Stephen Yamashiro to hear their concerns about the increased number of shark incidents on that island during 1999. Those concerns were discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. But Johns, who also chairs the task force, indicated the main purpose of this meeting was to “hear an update on current tiger shark research being conducted in Hawai‘i, and make sure the protocols developed earlier remain the best way for us to proceed.”

Tiger sharks are considered the most dangerous sharks in Hawai‘i’s waters, and are generally blamed for most attacks in the state. Since 1993, DLNR has been partially funding research conducted by Dr. Kim Holland, of the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology to study movement patterns of tiger sharks in south O‘ahu’s coastal waters. The ultimate goal of the research has been to determine whether fishing for a shark immediately following an attack might be appropriate.

In presenting his findings, Holland indicated that previous conventional wisdom about tiger shark behavior has, in many cases, been inaccurate. Rather than being territorial, tiger sharks are now believed to be constantly swimming over large distances in search of prey. According to Holland, by the time a fishing effort could be organized, “the shark is almost certainly long gone.”

The task force reviewed current response protocols, and members will be making suggestions for specific changes over the next few weeks. As written now, the protocols, which mostly deal with who’s responsible for warning the public after an attack, do include provisions for fishing, but leave that decision up to the DLNR Chair. In 1992 and part of 1993, the State regularly conducted such fishing efforts, but eventually discontinued the practice. As a result of Tuesday’s meeting, provisions for fishing will be de-emphasized in light of Holland’s findings, and more emphasis will be placed on surveillance.

Johns asked the group to come up with suggestions for further research projects which might provide more specific information on tiger shark behavior that would be useful from a management and public safety perspective. The task force also agreed that more work needs to be done to educate residents and visitors about behaviors that might place them at risk of a shark encounter. No date has been set for the next meeting.

The task force includes Johns and DLNR Deputy Director Janet Kawelo; UH researchers Holland and Dick Brock; Bruce Carlson and Jerry Crow from the Waikiki Aquarium; John Naughton of the National Marine Fisheries Service; City and County of Honolulu Ocean Safety officials Ralph Goto and Jim Howe; Hawaiian cultural specialist Charlie Maxwell; and DLNR staff Bill Devick, Randy Honebrink, Ralston Nagata, and Aulani Wilhelm.


SEPTEMBER 2, 1993
Sun sets on Shark Task Force
The State's Shark Task Force was deactivated today by its Chairman, Bill Paty. "I believe the Task Force has accomplished its objectives," Paty said. The group was formed in March 1992, primarily to advise the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) on how to deal with the shark issue. "We are in the process of putting the finishing touches on standard operating procedures that will be followed by all agencies involved in responding to shark sightings and attacks. Until now this has been done informally," Paty said.

Even though the Task Force has been deactivated, its members will continue to be tapped for their expertise by DLNR, which is responsible for managing nearshore marine resources, and is the lead agency for shark response. "Nothing really will change, as far as responding to shark incidents is concerned," Paty added. "In addition, the research and education initiatives taken by the Task Force will continue to be emphasized. Limited shark fishing efforts will be done on an as-needed basis, and in consultation with the local Hawaiian community." The shark reporting line, 58-SHARK, will remain in operation.

In deciding to close the books on the Shark Task Force, Paty noted that "any task force should sunset at some point, and not perpetuate itself indefinitely. This task force was faced with a very difficult problem, and we're all comfortable with the balanced approach we've taken. I'm very grateful to the members for their contributions up to this point, and feel that the matter will be handled very capably by DLNR."

At the time of its deactivation, the Shark Task Force members included Chairman Bill Paty; Keith Ahue, Henry Sakuda, and Randy Honebrink of DLNR; George Boehlert and John Naughton of the National Marine Fisheries Service; Richard Brock of the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program; Kim Holland, Chris Lowe, and Brad Wetherbee of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology; John Randall and Arnold Suzumoto of Bishop Museum; Ralph Goto, Jim Howe, and Brian Keaulana of the City and County of Honolulu's Water Safety Division; Steve Kaiser of Sea Life Park; Scotty Bowman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; Gail Chew of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau; and Hawaiian cultural and historical authority Herb Kane.

Paty paid tribute to noted Hawaiian cultural specialist Parley Kanaka‘ole, who was frequently contacted by the Shark Task Force for advice. "We learned a great deal from Parley," Paty said. "We were crushed by his loss, and will really miss his wise and insightful counsel."

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