State stepping up shark study following rash of attacks

By Paula Akana
Published On: Aug 20 2013 04:22:00 PM HST

After a recent rash of shark attacks, the state's stepping up its efforts to figure out why so many sharks are biting humans.

HONOLULU -

After a recent rash of shark attacks, the state's stepping up its efforts to figure out why so many sharks are biting humans.  

It's funding a study that begins in September to study the movement of Tiger Sharks around Maui.

The study was already planned, but the recent spike in attacks will shift the focus to areas where those bites have happened.

Carl Meyer and his team have captured and tagged tiger sharks throughout Hawaii.  But Maui remains a mystery.  There's not much info on what's happening beneath the surface there.

Soon, researchers will dive in.

"We'll be fishing for tiger sharks," said Carl Meyer of the UH Institute of Marine Biology. "When we catch one we bring it along side a small boat, turn it upside down, which induces a trance-like state, and then we're able to measure it and tag the animal before releasing it to go on its way as quickly as possible."

Two different transmitters, one attached the other implanted in the tiger, will transit data that will give them a better picture of where the tigers roam.

"If Carl's studies show there's issues and residency in some areas, we would apply some management tools then educate," said Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources William Aila. "Maybe keep it off limits or some sort of separation of people and sharks that reside there."

The state has only done this in one area, Olowalu in West Maui

Based on attacks there, and native Hawaii tradition warning to be careful of sharks in the area, a sign went up in 2002 and remains in place.

Meyer says his research has shown Tigers are highly mobile.

"For any given location the average tiger shark would only be there for three minutes," added Meyer. "And won't come back again for at least two weeks."

Meyer says Tigers can travel 100 miles over a 24 hour period.  Aila says one Tiger was tracked all the way to Mexico.

But he added that this study won't result in shark culling or shark hunts we saw in the 1970s and later again the 90's.

"To try to capture a shark after an incident would be a waste of time and money and not effective," added Aila.

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