Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

Cool new shark tracking tool

You may have heard about the recent increase in shark attacks on Maui. For those of you terrified of sharks, let me say this: it is extremely unlikely you will bitten by a shark in the ocean. In 2012 we had 2.3 million visitors on Maui (with the numbers increasing for 2013). In 2013 we’ve to date had 6 shark attacks (one resulted in a death, the first shark-related death since 2004). Statistically that is a 0.00026% likelihood you’ll get bitten. Should you choose to avoid the ocean when the water is murky (typically a day or two after rainfall), this likelihood decreases substantially.

So, please keep sharks in perspective. Their target foods are turtles and monk seals. When the water is murky, you may look like a snack. So please stay out. I know this ‘bites’, especially if you are here for just a week, but do you really want to be shark bait?

Given the increase in shark attacks, the State of Hawaii has recently commissioned the University of Hawaii Manoa to undertake a shark study. Researchers have completed the first phase of their project, tagging 15 tiger sharks found on the South side of Maui. No, sharks don’t exclusively hang out in South Maui, they can in fact be found anywhere the ocean water is salty (anywhere in the ocean). This is simply where they have started their research.

Researchers (and you too) can now track the sharks’ movement as they go (or should I say ‘swim’) about their every day lives. As I understand it, the GPS transponders transmit a signal whenever the dorsal fin breaches the surface.

I don’t know about you, but I find this fascinating.

The website warns, this website does NOT provide real-time monitoring. Please do not rely on it for safety advice.

How to best avoid a shark encounter (some common sense advice)?

1. Do not go into the ocean if the water is murky – sharks generally avoid humans, however if the water is murky, they may mistake you for prey.

2. Do not go into the ocean when it’s raining or right after (again the murkiness factor). But also, the water could be murky because of run-off from land, so it is a sanitary concern. Plan a different activity until the water is clear again.

3. Avoid swimming/surfing at dusk and dawn (they may mistake you for prey).

4. Do not go into the water if you have an open wound or are bleeding – apart from sharks being attracted to blood, you could also get an infection. Be careful if there is sharp coral or lava rock in the water – best to wear water shoes.

5. Do not wear high contrast clothing or jewellery. Sharks see contrast very well.

6. Swim, surf or dive with other people. Don’t move too far away from assistance.

7. Don’t swim near people fishing or spear fishing.

8. Avoid swimming near dolphins – they are prey for some types of sharks.

9. If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, move quickly and calmly out of the water. Refrain from excessive splashing, sharks are attracted to that type of behavior.

10. Check with the life guards. They will post signs and close the beach if there is a shark sighting. Don’t go into water if sharks are known to be present.