Fatal attack spurs interest in shark tracking

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Dec 03 2013 05:38:00 PM HST

A spike in University of Hawaii shark tracking website traffic shows global concern for shark attacks in Hawaii.

Click here to read Catherine Cruz' article.

HONOLULU -

Ocean sports companies and are fielding a barrage of questions especially after a shark killed 57- year-old Patrick Briney while he was fishing.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's report.

Briney was like many of the customers, a man on vacation dangling his legs off a kayak when the shark moved in.

The big question: Are we safe in the water?

"As far as we are concerned, it’s still safe to be in the water as long as you are observant and take the precautions that are necessary," said State Land Natural Resources director William Aila. 

Recent attacks are driving people to a University of Hawaii shark satellite tracking website which has seen close to a quarter of a million hits since it debuted two-and-a-half weeks ago.

"Yesterday alone, we had 25,000 hits to our website and the majority of those were going to our shark-tracking pages," said Melissa Iwamoto of the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System.

Up until this week, the site had been averaging about 1500 to 1700 daily hits.

"This is a huge increase when there is activity in the water definitely people are turning to get information to find out what is going on," said Iwamoto.

The site shows some tagged sharks hanging around in certain areas off of Maui's coast but then moving across wide distances.

One female in particular spent most of her time closer to shore.

"She was hanging around west Maui a lot and then she moved south and southwest of Maui and the most recent report for her is Dec 1,” said Iwamoto.

But the data Iwamoto stressed isn’t real-time, isn’t meant to be used as a warning system and is just six weeks into a two year study.

Scientists said it’s still too early to try and explain the sudden spike in shark cases.

"We leave the conclusions up to them, we just serve the data and make it available to the public," said Iwamoto.

Scientists with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology installed six listening devices around Maui's south shore to being tracking sharks implanted with acoustical tags.

They hope to begin retrieving some of the data next month and to add new listening devices on Maui's north shore.

The plan is to install more of the listening devices on Maui’s north shore, weather permitting.

PHOTOS: Shark bite victim brought to Kihei Boat Ramp

Click here to see photos at the Kihei Boat Ramp on Maui.

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