WAIMANALO — At least three large tiger sharks have been spotted feeding on the decomposing carcass of a humpback whale just off-shore from Waimanalo Bay Beach Park.
Shark warning signs are up, and lifeguards and law-enforcement officials have been warning people to stay out of the water.
The whale carcass was spotted by Honolulu Ocean Safety Division lifeguards at around 9 a.m. Tuesday, originally an estimated 300 yards from the beach.
Lifeguards on a Jet Ski went out to investigate, and saw at least three sharks in the 12-13-foot-long range feeding on the carcass. Throughout the day the carcass seems to be drifting closer to the beach, at one point an estimated 100 to 150 yards from shore.
In addition to warning signs lifeguards and officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement were stationed on the beach or patrolling it to ensure people do not enter the water.
Tissue from the carcass began washing onto the beach Tuesday afternoon. There were reports that dogs were eating some of the tissue, and owners were asked to keep their dogs on leashes and away from the material so they don’t get sick.
It is against both federal and state laws to remove any body parts or bones from protected marine species like humpback whales.
The City &County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation closed Waimanalo Bay Beach Park an hour and a half earlier on Tuesday, at 7 p.m., and limited nighttime access to the beach. This included closing the access gate earlier. The beach park is normally closed from 8:30 p.m. through 7 a.m.
DLNR and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Tuesday were in the process of determining what to do about the carcass. Options include towing it out to sea or letting currents bring it to shore. Native Hawaiian practitioners were to be engaged in either case, to provide cultural protocols.