Hawaii Sharks

Sharks – The Facts About Hawaii’s Ocean Predators

Sharks of Hawaii
Tiger sharks are the most dangerous and aggressive type of shark found near Hawaii’s shores

Famous Hawaii Shark Attack

Bethany Hamilton was lying on her surfboard, rocking gently with the waters off Makua Beach on Kauai’s North Shore. The 13-year-old surfing prodigy was getting ready to take on another set of waves.

“The shark just came and attacked me,” she later told a news reporter. “He got hold of my arm and kind of jerked me back and forth a little, and then he was gone.”

The attack occurred on October 31, 2003. Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm that day to a tiger shark, estimated to be between 10 and 15 feet in length. It was the 12th shark attack in Hawaiian waters in three years. The last fatal shark attack occurred in 1991 when a woman was mauled by a tiger shark in waters off Olowalu, Maui.

Hawaiian Legend

According to Hawaiian legend, each island has its own shark god. The king of all shark gods was Kamohoalii, brother of the fire goddess, Pele. Many Hawaiian families also had personal shark aumakua (guardian spirits).

Shark Species

There are numerous types of sharks found near Hawaii’s shores. The most dangerous and aggressive is the tiger shark, which averages 12 to 13 feet in length. Other sharks in Hawaii include hammerheads, reef sharks, blacktip sharks, white tip sharks, and sandbar sharks. Sharks may be viewed Hawaii’s marine life attractions, including Sea Life Park and the Waikiki Aquarium on Oahu and the Maui Ocean Center on the Valley Isle.

Safety Tips

Shark attacks are very rare. Still, it helps to heed these safety tips:

  • Don’t swim or surf alone.
  • Stay out of the water at dusk, dawn and night.
  • Don’t go into the water if you have open wounds or are bleeding.
  • Avoid areas with murky waters.
  • Don’t wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry.
  • Refrain from excessive splashing.
  • Stay away from dead animals or animals in distress in the water.
  • If you encounter a shark, leave the water quickly but calmly.

Bethany Hamilton remained calm, and experts say that may have saved her life.

Sharks In Hawaii
Bethany’s life-changing experience hasn’t prevented her from pursuing her dreams

What’s more, her life-changing experience hasn’t prevented her from pursuing her dreams. Just 10 weeks after the attack, Hamilton placed fifth at a National Scholastic Surfing Association tournament on the Big Island.

Inside a Shark Cage

Get an up-close and personal view of sharks from inside a shark cage. Video by Mike McConnell