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The Truth About Sharks in Hawaii

Shark Week!

It’s summertime and that can only mean one thing for lovers of the Discovery Channel: Shark Week! Airing every summer since 1988, Shark Week is a week of programming that highlights the king of the oceans and attempts to understand why sharks do what they do. These elusive creatures have gotten a bad rap since Jaws hit the movie theaters in 1975 as man-eating killing machines hell-bent on getting revenge on humans. Even Discovery Channel has come under fire for its brand of “docu-fiction” with shows that focus on the search for Megalodon (a long-extinct monster shark) and other fictional creatures to hype up ratings and viewership. While most people certainly wouldn’t want to come face to face with a Great White in the ocean, the fact is shark attacks are rare. In fact, you’re more likely to win the Nobel Prize than be attacked by a shark.

In Hawaii, the fear of sharks is bigger here because more people are in the water swimming and of course surfing. Of the approximately 7.4 million visitors that come to Hawaii every year, the rate of shark attacks is at about three. Not the best number if you’re one of those three, but still. Put it into perspective: you’re more likely to win an Oscar, get killed by a falling airplane, or die during scuba diving (actually about 100 people die every year doing this).

When you think of the many ways you can die or get hurt in the water, shark attacks are actually quite low on the list. In Hawaii and in many other places where people flock to the shore, the risk of drowning should actually be your biggest fear, as this is the number one cause of water-related death. The State of Hawaii Department of Health Injury Prevention and Control Program says 60 people die by drowning annually here (rip tides, high waves, etc.), with eight shark attacks in 2007, two in 2008 and three in 2009. That seems to be about the average over the years.

Hawaii is home to about 40 species of shark, with about eight of them common to the shore line. If you’re attacked by a shark in Hawaii, it’s most likely going to be a tiger shark. Other common shark types here include the scalloped hammerhead, sandbar and white tip. Sharks are an integral part of marine life all across the globe, playing an important role in the balance of life under the sea. At the top of the food chain, it stands to reason they will hunt to get the food they need. Their diet, at least for the bigger guys, consists of seals and turtles. When they see humans at the surface splashing around or on a surfboard, they often move in quickly for a bite but then quickly realize it’s not the dinner they want. Humans on surfboards look a lot like seals from below which is why so many attacks happen with this sport.

All that being said, maybe you prefer to just stay on terra firma when you come to Hawaii. In that case, check out all the tours Hoku Hawaii Tours has to offer, from Pearl Harbor to Oahu Eco-Adventure Tours. Why go it on your own when you can get the full treatment from our expert guides?