DLNR NEWS RELEASE: Makaha incident prompts safety reminders & accurate information

Posted on Oct 29, 2015 in Latest News, Newsroom, Press Releases

(HONOLULU) – With a ten-year old boy in the hospital recovering from injuries, from what is thought to be the 7th human/shark encounter this year, officials with the Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the City and County of Honolulu Emergency Services Department, and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) paused to remind ocean users of post-shark encounter protocols and the latest scientific research on sharks in Hawaii.

During a news conference today, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) Administrator, Dr. Bruce Anderson said, “Of course our thoughts and prayers go out to this boy and his family for his full recovery.  Our data base shows that he is one of the youngest victims of an apparent shark bite in recent years.”  Anderson told reporters, that the DLNR has just begun an internal review of shark incident protocols, aimed at improving the accurate dissemination of information between the state, county emergency first responders and law enforcement, the news media and ultimately ocean users.  “Our top priority is the safety of the vast number of people who visit Hawaii’s beaches and recreate in the ocean. In the hours and days following a shark incident, there often is worldwide media attention aimed at Hawaii and we want to be sure the mechanisms are in place to provide current and accurate information.”

Dr. Carl Meyer, a noted shark researcher at HIMB, is widely quoted after incidents in Hawaii.  In a statement issued earlier this month, Meyer said, “Tiger sharks pup during the fall and migrations from the northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the main Hawaiian Islands during this time of year are proven facts.  Native Hawaiian oral traditions clearly link the fall months to a risk of shark bites.  This traditional knowledge is reflected in our current shark incident statistics.  In recent decades almost one third of all shark bites in Hawaii have occurred during the months of October and November.”  Meyer added, “It is also important to remember that shark bites occur in all months of the year in Hawaii and that the number of encounters at any time of the year is extremely low compared to the number of people in the water.”

One post-bite protocol that is not expected to change, is the posting of warning signs on beaches, within one-mile each direction from the location of an incident.  Shayne Enright, Public Information Officer for Honolulu’s Emergency Services Dept., commented, “Our first priority is to get the patient out of the water and provide immediate treatment, followed by getting others out of the ocean and posting of signs and patrols to remind people of the possible continued presence of a shark.” She reiterated current protocols that call for lifeguards to post warning signs and to conduct beach and water patrols to verbally remind people to get out of or stay out of the water.  Warning signs are left in place until at least noon of the day following an incident.

Officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), along with DAR education specialists on each of the islands, also respond to a beach after an encounter.  “We are in a position to assist the county emergency first responders with warnings and patrols to help ensure that additional people won’t have an encounter with a shark or other marine animal,” said Kirk Smythe, the Enforcement Coordinator for DOCARE.

After nearly every shark-human encounter, reporters and people ask about the possibility of making Hawaiian waters safer by fishing (culling) for sharks.  Dr. Meyer and his team have also done extensive research on the effectiveness of culling.  He said, “Previous shark control programs in Hawaii killed thousands of sharks, yet bites still occurred both during and immediately after these efforts.  Again, ongoing increases in the numbers of people using the ocean and changes in the types of recreational activity are collectively the most likely explanation for increases in shark bites over time.”


# # #

Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources

Senior Communications Manager

Office of the Chairperson-Communications Office

1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 131

Honolulu, HI 96813

(808) 587-0407