Shark expert says recent spike in attacks 'coincidence'

Four bites reported in Hawaii in the past three weeks

Published  3:17 PM HST Aug 19, 2013
Shark Warning Sign posted at Kalama Beach
HONOLULU -

It's been the summer of the shark in Hawaii with a noticeable increase in bites.

There have been four shark attacks in Hawaiian waters in the past three weeks.

But the lure of the water is too strong for many people, even in the same spot as the latest incident Sunday off Isaac Hale Beach Park in Pohoiki.

"I thought, if the guy got bit yesterday, the shark's probably gone," said surfer Terry Walker. "So it's probably OK to go in."

Shark guru Kim Holland says she has a point.

"The science says it will be long gone," Holland said. "But on the other hand, a shark that was perhaps 50 miles away yesterday from that beach might be out in front of that beach today."

He said it's almost a zero chance that the same shark is behind all of the recent attacks, but that each bite was likely from a tiger shark.

"Scientifically, we can't say that there's anything connected here," said Holland. "It really could be just unfortunate coincidence, but coincidence nevertheless. The numbers are really small and with small numbers, we can't say anything statistically valid."

While there's no way to predict what will happen in the months ahead, previous spikes in numbers tend to settle back down.

For several years, Holland has been part of a team that's tagged and tracked hundreds of sharks in Hawaiian waters.

"What we know from that tracking is that they move large distances," he said. "They don't just park in front of one beach but they can go all the way up and on the island chain."

Holland said we're surrounded by sharks and he's actually surprised there aren't more attacks.

He said, "Always go in the water with a friend or swim or surf where there are other people because just like in the recent cases, having somebody there to help you to shore and get help makes a huge difference."

But, Holland said when there's more people in the water, shark attack rates go up. He also said all the talk about dusk and dawn being the most dangerous times is a myth and that the busiest swimming times are the riskiest.

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