Spotlight on sharks

  • Philip Marcelo / Associated Press

    Replicas of great white sharks are displayed at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s Chatham Shark Center in Chatham, Mass.

LIHUE — Sharks are swimming onto Discovery Channel again, airing a series of shows from Sunday, July 28, through Sunday August, 4.

It’s the 31st year “Shark Week” brings the ocean’s apex predators into living rooms, bringing with it all the teeth and blood the public expects from the series.

This year, Discovery Channel says it’s teaming up with Oceana to help protect the animals from the global shark fin trade. Discovery is also working with Ocean Conservancy to help clean beaches and inland waterways, according to a press release about the show.

“Discovery Channel continues to work with nearly two dozen of the world’s most respected marine biologists and science institutions,” Discovery said in the release. “Shark Week will uncover mysteries on some of the most unique shark species in the world.”

Some new adds to “Shark Week” include highlights on new technology, including the first “drone-towed” seal decoy and surveillance tools. Also new this year is a 360 multi-platform experience — the ability to check out the shark action on various social media platforms as well as watch the show.

Also on tap is a search for the famous great white shark Deep Blue and an underwater trip with actor, comedian and retired Marine Rob Riggle.

“I’m a huge ‘Shark Week’ fan and can’t wait to dive back into the water with the oceans most magnificent creatures. It’s going to be an epic ‘Shark Trip’ with some of my best buddies,” said Riggle in a press statement about the event.

As “Shark Week” gets ready to air, new statistics have been released by the organization Safewise on shark bites across the U.S., ranking Hawaii at number two for shark attacks in the country, with 117 shark attacks recorded since 2000.

Florida was ranked number one with 486 attacks recorded in the same 19 years.

Other findings from Safewise show out of the 91 million recreational swimmers in the U.S., there are only about 44 attacked by sharks annually and there have only been about 17 fatal shark attacks in the past 20 years in the U.S.

Data was separated in two timeframes — the years 2000 through 2009 and the years 2010 through 2019. Data showed Hawaii had 44 attacks in the first nine-year period and 73 in the last nine-year period.

Nationwide as of June 2019, there have only been two fatal shark attacks in the U.S., a 26-year old boogie boarder in Massachusetts and a 65 year-old swimmer who was bitten off the coast of Maui in May.

A 2019 study out of Louisiana State University also acknowledged the uptick in Hawaii shark bites over the past decade — attributing the phenomenon more to changes in human behavior than shark behavior.

Researchers cited upticks in tourism numbers and numbers of people in the water in Hawaii, leading to a higher probability for shark bites.

But, authors Stephen Midway, Tyler Wagner and George H. Burgess said in the study that the risk of being bitten by a shark is still very low.

“Despite the cultural perception of shark attack risk, the risk at larger scales is not very high, and where it is increasing the rates are low and preventative measures are more likely to take place,” authors said in the study.

Shark researchers with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology didn’t immediately return calls or emails about shark activity on Hawaii, but active research is ongoing in various areas.

In 2018, researcher Kim Holland confirmed with The Garden Island that tiger sharks are usually the culprits behind shark bites in Hawaii but said no one really knows the truth behind why sharks in Hawaii bite humans.

Holland and fellow researchers at HIMB have been studying the movements and patterns of tiger sharks, and other shark activity in Hawaii, for years and have shown the sharks have a wide-ranging territory.

Many researchers theorize shark bites are a case of “mistaken identity” as humans aren’t typically in the diet of sharks.

Tiger sharks, for instance, typically feed on reef fish and octopus.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ data shows there have been six shark bites reported in 2019, with one occurring on Kauai at Hanalei in February. That incident left a surfer with puncture wounds on the left leg.

Three attacks or bites were recorded by DLNR in 2018, none fatal, and one occurring at Shipwrecks Beach in April 2018, with puncture wounds on the right leg reported.


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at

  1. Harry Rabin July 28, 2019 11:06 am Reply

    They feed on Honu Kai, Sea Turtles too.

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