16 Fascinating Facts About Sharks in Hawaii Every Local Should Know

In honor of Shark Week, here are 16 facts you may not know about sharks in Hawaii.




It’s shark week! Even if you’re aren’t watching the Discovery Channel every night this week from 7-8 p.m., sharks probably cross your mind now and then. Between the 8-foot aggressive Galapagos shark spotted at Kaimana Beach this March and the stormy weather that’s known to attract them, even the bravest among us are shark-leery. That’s why we came up with this handy list of 16 facts you may not know about sharks in Hawaii.


1. 40 Species in Hawaii

We have 40 species of sharks in the ocean surrounding our islands (there are 350 known species of sharks in the world). Most of them are harmless.


2. 4 of the Most Common Species

There are four species of sharks common in the ocean near our shores--these are the sharks you’re most likely to see at places like Kaimana Beach. The most frequently spotted include the white-tip reef shark, the sandbar shark, the scalloped hammerhead and occasionally the terrifying tiger shark.

From left to right, clockwise: white-tip reef shark, sandbar shark, tiger shark, hammerhead shark. Pictures from DLNR.


3. The Most Dangerous...

Tiger sharks are the most dangerous sharks in Hawaii. Great white sharks are also very dangerous, but are rarely seen in Hawaii. They might be more common than you think.



PHOTO: Wikipedia


4. The Most Aggressive...

The most aggressive reef sharks in Hawaii are the tiger shark and the Galapagos shark.


Photo of a galapagos shark in Hawaii from Wikipedia


5. Track a Tiger Shark

You can actually track tiger sharks in Hawaii, here. Before Hawaii scientists tracked them, the scientists thought tiger sharks stuck to a particular area. In reality, they occupy huge ranges of territory, hunting and swimming from island to island. 



6. Tiger Sharks and Storms

Tiger sharks are often attracted to stream mouths after it rains heavily. They hunt fish and animals that have been swept out to sea.


7. How Dangerous is Hawaii?

Some fear and caution may be justified. Hawaii is the fourth most dangerous place for shark attacks, according to howstuffworks.com.


8. Number of Shark Incidents Per Year

Sharks bite only three or four people per year in Hawaii waters. Fatal shark bites are extremely rare, especially considering the number of people in Hawaii’s waters.


9. Where Do Sharks Attack?

Almost half of Hawaii’s 113 shark attacks since 1882 have occurred off the coasts of Oahu and Maui. Oahu has had 34 attacks and six fatalities. Maui has had 36 attacks and three fatalities. Nineteen attacks have occurred off Kauai, and 12 have happened near the Big Island. [Source: ISAF]


10. Shark Attacks Spike in 2013

Last year (2013) we had more shark attacks in Hawaii than during any of the past 35 years. [Source: DLNR]



11. Shark Season

Most shark-related incidents occur between October and December, despite there being fewer people in the water during those months. Reportedly, even Native Hawaiians were familiar with this trend.  [Source: DLNR]


12. Native Hawaiians and Sharks

Native Hawaiians had a healthy respect for sharks. They tattooed images of them on their bodies, to ward off sharks by letting them know that their aumakua (personal god or deified spirit animal) was a shark. They also used images of them as decoration on kapa (barkcloth), and their body parts as tools, drums, sandpaper and weapons. [Source: DLNR]


13. Sharks and Surfing

Don’t let this scare you off from one of Hawaii’s favorite pastimes, but the activity most people are engaged in when they encounter a shark is surfing. [Source: DLNR]


Photo of local pro surfer Bethany Hamilton from Wikipedia. Bethany continues to surf even after losing one arm to a tiger shark off Kauai.


14. Sharks Like Urine?

Sharks are attracted not only to blood, but to urine. So next time you’re in the ocean, think about finding a restroom on shore. Your fellow surfers thank you! [Source: Maui Information Guide]


15. Whitetip Reef Sharks

Whitetip reef sharks, which can be found in Hawaii, hunt at night, in groups. Luckily, they don’t get much bigger than five feet, and tiger sharks eat them. They like to hang out inside underwater lava tubes. They also follow Hawaiian monk seals and attempt to steal their food. [Sources: Discover Channel and Wikipedia]


Photo of whitetip reef shark from Wikipedia


16. Sharks Can Tan

Tourists aren’t the only ones who like to tan in Hawaii—Sharks tan too. Some hammerheads tan near the ocean’s surface to darken their skin for better camouflage. Ever caught a shark doing that in Kaneohe Bay? [Source: Discovery Channel]


Hammerhead getting a tan. Photo from Wikipedia.


Did we miss any fun facts? Will you be watching Zombie Sharks tonight on the Discovery Channel to learn more? Let us know in the comments!

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