Sharks In Maui
“By comparison, more people are killed by dogs in the U.S. every year than have been killed by shark attacks in the last 100 years.”
~Hawaii Shark Encounters
Most recent Maui shark attack
As of September 7th, 2022
on Saturday, September 3rd, a 51-year-old French woman was attacked while snorkeling at Paia Bay on the north shore of Maui. Several beaches were closed until Monday morning. She is currently recovering at Maui Memorial Hospital with severe injuries.
NEW! Also see: Maui Sailing Canoe
Sharks in Maui Stats
As of 2013, there have been 1,022 confirmed shark attacks and 36 confirmed shark attack fatalities in the United States since 1670. In the Hawaiian Islands, since 1828, there have been 116 confirmed shark attacks and only 8 confirmed shark attack fatalities. For Hawaii, that averages out to a shark attack every 1.59 years, and a fatality approximately every 23 years. (Stats from Florida Museum of Natural History) You may say, “but shark attacks are increasing each decade!”
This is true because there are a lot more people in the World and a lot more people in the water. The increase in urban runoff could also increase this fact. All in all, you’re more likely to die from a dog attack or a falling coconut than a shark attack. So beware of palms and angry dogs.
What are the chances of being attacked by a shark? There are usually 2 to 3 attacks around Hawaii per year, but almost always non-fatal. With the millions of people in the ocean around Maui every year, your chances of being attacked are slim to none. There has never been a reported attack of a scuba diver in Hawaiian waters. Snorkelers, swimmers, and surfers are attacked because of their surface activity. Scuba divers are surrounded by the underwater environment and, with all the bubbles, seem foreign to sharks.
Sharks are highly developed ancient creatures that have existed before the dinosaurs. Some species of shark, like the horn shark, have not evolved at all in the last 150 million years due to their perfect design. Sharks are accredited for having kept the ocean in check by eliminating the weaker or sick fish so that the stronger ones can produce better offspring. With the overfishing of sharks, in the last 20 years, most species have lost over half of their population. Many sharks are extinct causing a major disturbance in ocean life distribution.
The most dangerous Hawaiian sharks are Tiger sharks. Tiger sharks are highly effective inshore predators that on occasion mistake humans for other ocean animals that make up their regular diet. The most dangerous sharks in the ocean are Great White sharks, Tiger sharks, Hammerhead sharks, Bull sharks, and Mako Sharks.
1. Don’t swim at night or during twilight hours.
Sharks in Maui primarily feed at night because they are nocturnal. Feeding during twilight has been debated, but most accepted as a shark behavior. Most believe that they choose sun up and sun down to feed because of the transition that most fish go through to focus in the changing light. Sharks use their sense of smell more than their eyesight, so they don’t worry about their eyes having to focus in different light. 2/3 of a shark’s brain is dedicated to the sense of smell. This allows them to hunt in murky waters with poor visibility.
2. Stay away from Rivermouths and stream outlets.
Sharks are attracted to these areas due to the small fish and other life that gets washed down to the ocean. The waters are usually murky around these areas as well, which puts its prey at a disadvantage while hunting.
3. Stay out of the water after it rains.
Runoff from land will make the water murky and attract sharks inshore.
4. Don’t swim in heavily fished areas or anywhere near active fishermen.
The gutted fish and bait will attract sharks. Fisherman and used to seeing sharks in Hawaii due to the spilling of chum to attract fish.
5. Stay away from murky waters.
Silty areas as well as most shores after a storm can become murky. Sharks enjoy the additional cover it creates during hunting.
6. Swim with a buddy.
Two bodies are much more intimidating than just one. Despite the intimidation factor, your chances of being attacked are cut in half. In crowded waters, you’re odds drop even more.
7. If you encounter a shark: stay calm, and move your body in a vertical position.
Most attacks are when people are lying on the surface of the ocean. Frantic splashing will make you appear to be hurt.
8. Do not enter the ocean with a cut or open wound.
Sharks are attracted to the smell of blood and are said to be able to detect a drop of it from over a mile away.
9. Leave shiny jewelry at home.
The light that reflects off of your bling will look similar to light from scales on a fish.
10. Don’t urinate in the ocean.
Just like blood, sharks are attracted to urine. Hold it till you find a restroom.
What are your chances of being bit by a Tiger shark in Maui?
Near to none. Advanced divers are regularly trying to catch a glimpse of one, but they are very elusive. If you ever come into close contact with a Maui shark, you’ll probably never even know it. It’s widely accepted that sharks are more afraid of people than we are of them. Their hesitation to get near us just proves how resilient survivors they are. Hopefully, the decimation of their species will slow down with more awareness of the importance of their existence.
Ocean Photography courtesy Natalie Brown Photography. All Rights Reserved.