Yes, there are sharks in Hawaii, and a number of attacks have been reported over the years. How fatal have these attacks been? Are the Hawaiian waters too dangerous? Keep reading, and you’ll find out!
We’ll tell you everything we know about shark attacks, the types of sharks you can see here, shark diving tours, and also the role sharks play in Hawaiian culture.
Are The Hawaiian Waters Shark Infested?
Yes, the waters that surround the island chain of Hawaii are known to be shark infested. There are 40 shark species living close to the shores of Hawaii, but there are only about nine key shark species.
Makena Point in Maui experiences some of the highest concentrations of sharks. Tiger sharks are the most common encounter, but you might also see the Whitetip reef and Scalloped hammerheads as well.
Recommended reading: Animals that live in Hawaii
Types Of Sharks Found In Hawaii
Tiger sharks pose the biggest threat to humans. With a length of 13 to 16 feet, they are the most dangerous; tiger sharks are responsible for most shark attacks reported in Hawaii. They are quite distinct in appearance, with flat heads and large mouths.
Great White Shark
The great white shark is another creature to fear in the Hawaiian waters, although sightings are very rare. They are quite scary and responsible for the highest number of shark attacks in the world. These animals are quite bulky with a distinctively white underbelly.
This is another shark species that frequent Hawaiian waters, but they are not as dangerous as tiger and great white sharks. However, certain provoked attacks have been reported.
Blacktip sharks aren’t as aggressive as other shark species, but they can become quite dangerous when there’s food in the vicinity. They don’t pose a great threat to humans, but we don’t recommend getting too close.
Hammerhead sharks are the easiest to recognise. Their heads are shaped like hammers, hence the name hammerheads. They are quite large in size and have sharp teeth, and can be dangerous to humans.
Whitetip Reef Shark
Whitetip reef sharks are quite small with a round and dainty snout. They are not dangerous to humans. During the day, they rest in their habitats and emerge at night in search of food.
Grey Reef Shark
Another shark species that are smaller compared to their relatives. They like to stay close to the ocean bed, which means that scuba divers are likely to see them. Grey reef sharks are quite curious and might approach you when they see you. While they are not considered dangerous, a few incidents have been reported from around the world.
Blacktip Reef Shark
These sharks prefer the reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They don’t grow very large in size and are not considered a threat to humans. If they see you, they are more likely to swim away than to attack you. But there have been a few biting incidents, so do not approach them.
Bignose sharks prefer the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. They can grow up to 12 feet in length and can be an intimidating sight. But Bignose sharks are a very rare encounter.
Are There Bull Sharks In Hawaii?
Bull sharks are potentially the most dangerous to humans as they prefer shallow, coastal waters but they haven’t been sighted in Hawaii.
How Common Are Shark Attacks In Hawaii?
Considering the number of swimmers and scuba divers that take to the Hawaiian waters every year, shark attacks are not very common. There are about 3 to 4 shark attacks per year.
Fatal shark attacks are even rarer, but that is not to say they do not occur. A fatal attack was reported in December 2020, and another death was reported from Maui in 2019.
Shark Attacks In 2021
There were eight reported shark attacks in 2021. The International Shark Attack File only reported six attacks because two out of the eight incidents were provoked.
When Are Sharks Most Active?
A few shark species are active at night, but most are active during the day between 10 AM to 4 PM. Researchers also note that the period spanning from October to December has the highest risk of being attacked by a shark.
Where Do Most Shark Attacks Occur In Hawaii?
Maui and Oahu report the highest number of shark attacks.
Maui shark attacks
Within the last 20 years, about 50 incidents have been reported from Maui, and five have been classified as fatal.
Oahu shark attacks
Oahu, on the other hand, reported 29 incidents within the last 20 years, but there were no fatalities.
Big Island shark attacks
22 shark attacks have been reported on Big Island between 1995 and 2020.
Kauai shark attacks
Shark attacks in Kauai are rare, but there has been one incident per year.
Why Would A Shark Attack A Human?
Despite the popular notion that sharks actively seek out people to attack, they don’t. This is why there aren’t many fatalities. A shark can mistake you for a big fish, in which case, it may approach you and bite you, but the moment it realises you are not a seal, a turtle, or a fish, it lets you go.
Sometimes they are curious and want to know what kind of creature you are, so they may bite you to ascertain what you are and then let you go, which is, understandably, not very reassuring.
But rest assured that sharks only eat other species of fish, turtles, and seals, and we are not part of their very diverse food palette.
What Is White Shark Café?
White Shark Café is an area in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii where white sharks come to rest during summer and winter. They mostly arrive from around the North American coast and take about 100 days to get to the café.
Shark Diving Tours
While sharks are a cause for concern, they have also become a tourist attraction in Hawaii. Adventure seekers seem to love cage-diving with sharks. There’s a range of tours that appeal to every budget.
The Role Of Sharks In Hawaiian Culture
Sharks are an integral part of Hawaiian culture. Shark teeth were used as tools, and the skin was used for musical instruments like hula drums.
Hawaiians also consider sharks to be their family guardians – when a family member dies, native Hawaiians believe that they come back as sharks to provide protection for the family.