Dangerous Sharks of Hawaii

May 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Hawaii Nature |

Out of the roughly forty species of sharks found in Hawaiian waters, only about four are especially dangerous to man.  The tiger shark is by far the most likely culprit in Hawaiian shark attacks, and the Galapagos is not far behind. Other species such as the scalloped hammerhead, and the whitetip have occasionally attacked humans in Hawaii, but they are the exception.


In Hawaii, shark attacks are actually quite rare, occurring at a rate of about 3-4 per year.  This is in stark contrast to the reputation of the Hawaii coastline in many other places.  Long thought to be a shark attack hotbed, the actual numbers do not support that fact.


By and far, the Tiger shark is the primary danger in Hawaiian waters.  This large apex predator is known affectionately as “the garbage can” of the sea.  This name comes from the reputation of being willing to eat anything.  The tiger shark has been known to eat everything from a human being to a car tire.  This curious nature is one of the reasons that the tiger shark is so dangerous.



The tiger shark is about fourteen feet when grown, though they can grow quite a bit larger.  They can be easily identified by the stripes that line it’s length, and a short blunt snout. The tiger shark has rows of sharp serrated teeth that are built for tearing.


Most shark attacks in Hawaiian waters are curiosity bites.  That is, the shark sees the human and wants to see if they are prey.  The shark has no hands to investigate, and uses the only thing it has.  Teeth.  This can be quite lethal to a human when a fourteen foot tiger shark is doing the investigating.


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Though the tiger shark is the main attacker in Hawaii, any shark should be considered dangerous as they all are meat eaters. Any wild animal is a potential threat and should be treated with respect. 


Other species commonly found in Hawaiian waters are the reef whitetip, the scalloped hammerhead, and the sandshark.  These species are large, strong predators and should be avoided in the water at all costs.


By and large your odds of being attacked by sharks in Hawaii are very slim.  The pristine waters of the Hawaiian coastline are full of dangers, but the shark population is a very small percentage of that danger on the whole.


Spearfishermen and surfers are by far the most likely to be attacked, but for very different reasons.  The spearfisherman is killing fish and putting blood in the water.  This is a magnet for sharks in the area and dangerous encounters can follow.  Surfers resemble the sharks prey when atop a surfboard as the shark is seeing them from below.  This is often a case of mistaken identity.


Sharks are generally not seen and stay well out of the way of human beings. If you are careful, and stay out of the water during the evening and twilight hours when they are feeding, then you are at a very minimal risk of being attacked.

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