Maui recently experienced its own variety of Shark Week with a spike in shark attacks.
Hawaii saw a spike in unprovoked tiger shark attacks in the past couple of months. Three shark incidents were reported off the shores of Maui in late October.
But 2014 isn’t the first time shark attacks have peaked in the fall and winter months. In fact, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources reports October incidents over the past 33 years are more than double the attacks reported in other months, with November and December incidents trailing close behind.
Why do sharks more commonly attack without provocation in the cooler months? Warmer waters off certain shores of Maui are used as breeding grounds for tiger sharks. In fact, eight of the 14 shark encounters reported in Hawaii in 2013 occurred near Maui. The attacks typically occur in murky water muddied by storm runoff.
Alayna DeBina, who was paddle boarding when she encountered a tiger shark, described the experience:
Initially I thought, wow, I just hit a turtle. It knocked me to the left of my board. It knocked my grandson to the right of my board. I landed on the shark. It was here, and I was touching it with my hand trying to figure out what it was.
DeBina escaped with her grandson in tow by kicking the shark and swimming for shore.
Theresa Fernandez, who had a tiger shark encounter three days later in the same waters, was also fortunate when a shark bit the back of her surfboard before she was able to escape its deadly jaws. It is unknown if the two bites came from the same shark.
“I hope that they were only (one) because it is a real scary thing to think there are two aggressive sharks out here on the same bay trying to eat surf boards. But I don’t really know if we’ll ever know the answer to that question,” DeBina added.
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Although reports may indicate there is a real danger from sharks this time of year, Dr. Kim Holland of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology said that it’s surprising how few shark incidents occur, considering the number of sharks in Hawaiian waters and the number of people swimming there. In fact, only 108 unprovoked attacks have occurred in the past 35 years, with only five fatalities.
“There isn’t a shark on the planet that has evolved to make a living eating people and when they do bite people it is a very unusual circumstance,” Holland said.
Still, to act on the side of caution, the DLNR reminds beach-goers to avoid murky water. An old Kanakas Haiku tells the story:
“No get in da water in winter and no murky water, yeah.”