Sharks in Hawaii continue to make the news after a Utah visitor was bitten twice this week by a shark as he swam on the Big Island. The 62-year-old man was about 600 feet offshore when the shark first bit his left hand, then bit him again in the left leg as he tried to fight it off. That was according to the state DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources.
Is it safe to be swimming 600 feet from shore? We wouldn’t do it ourselves; you may feel differently. At Hanalei Bay Kauai, people often swim away from the beach into the bay instead of along the shoreline. When you venture out far in the ocean, you’re far from an easy rescue should anything go awry, with sharks not even being among the first concerns.
Luckily, the man was able to hail a catamaran that was nearby. The boat took him to shore. First responders assisted and then transported him to the hospital.
Additional information about the attack isn’t currently available. When asked, DLNR said, “Under established protocols, DLNR does not release victims’ names, the extent of injuries, or medical condition.”
Shark warning signs were placed following Sunday’s incident. Later on Monday, however, they were removed at Big Island’s Anaehoomalu Bay. Ocean and aerial observation did not spot any sharks in the area.
“A-Bay,” as it is often called, has had a number of shark attacks, including one as recently as three months ago. It’s famous for snorkeling and other ocean activities. The location is nearby the resort area of Waikoloa.
Hawaii shark bites remain rare.
On average, shark bites in Hawaii average 3-4 per year. That is in relation to some 10 million annual Hawaii visitors. The expression about being more likely struck by lighting comes to mind here. Serious shark bites are even more rare.
Shark-safer Hawaii beaches.
No beach in Hawaii is immune from sharks entirely, so that notion might as well be removed from visitor thinking. That having been said, some beaches have far fewer occurrences of shark attacks. You can also visit the Hawaii Shark Incidents List from DLNR to see current or past problems at beaches throughout Hawaii.
Some of the safer locations often mentioned include:
Waikiki Beach, Oahu. That’s still true even though sharks were spotted in the water with swimmers just last month.
Poipu Beach, Kauai. Last summer, however, lifeguards advised beachgoers to stay out of the water there as a 6 to 8-foot shark was sighted near the Tombolo. Shark warning signs were posted.
Napili Bay, Maui.
Kapalua Bay, Maui.
Hapuna Beach, Big Island. In 2015, a 58-year-old Kansas visitor was bitten while snorkeling there. When it occurred, he was about 100 feet from shore in water 4-5 feet deep.
In 200 years, just 184 Hawaii shark attacks.
That is based on information from the International Shark Attack File, the only comprehensive source of shark attacks, including those in Hawaii.
Most shark attacks in Hawaii have been by tiger sharks, which can be aggressive and curious. These are among the three most dangerous sharks worldwide.
As a reminder, Hawaii DLNR reminds all of us that shark attacks in Hawaii are very rare:
The chances of being bitten by a shark are less than one in a million. And the chances of a serious injury are much less.
- Swim with others and at lifeguarded beaches.
- Avoid swimming far from the shoreline.
- Don’t swim or surf near river mouths. These are areas to which sharks are attracted.
- When sharks are the most active, avoid swimming or surfing at dawn, dusk, or night.
- Don’t wear bright jewelry or clothing since they may attract and confuse sharks.
- Finally, leave the water immediately if you see a shark (no problem!) and notify lifeguards or other authorities.
And finally, #7 is to pay attention to warning signs. Look at this video from DLNR at A-Bay last year after a shark incident. Watch and see people ignore warning signs and enter the ocean. We recommend staying safe and waiting for the signs to be removed (which happens 24 hours after a shark sighting or incident).
Read more about the real danger of sharks in Hawaii. Have you ever seen a shark during your Hawaii vacation?