When you visit Hawaii, you’re probably going to be spending a lot of time in the water. Visitors often ask about sharks, as in “should I be worried about them?” The fact is, many more people run into personal health-related issues while in the ocean (shortness of breath, increased heart rate) than shark-related issues. That’s not to say you should ignore the dangers of sharks. Most sharks around Hawaii’s shores are safe, but sharks are wild creatures and like all animals in nature, must be respected. Here are 10 facts about the sharks in Hawaii.
1.) There are approximately 40 species of sharks in Hawaii, compared to roughly 380 – 400 known shark species around the world.
2.) Of Hawaii’s 40 shark species, about eight of them are somewhat common near the shore. Of these, the whitetip reef shark, the blacktip reef shark, the sandbar shark and the scalloped hammerhead shark are the most common. Though, there are occasional sightings of tiger sharks, as well.
3.) Sharks can locate their prey without even seeing them due to their ability to detect the slight electric fields that all living creatures emit. Beyond that, they are fantastic hunters because they smell and hear their prey from sometimes more than a mile away (depending on water clarity).
4.) Tiger sharks are considered the most dangerous to humans in Hawaii’s waters. They will swim to river and stream mouths after heavy rains in attempt to eat the fish that get swept to sea. They are also known to converge around fishing boats where the crews often gut fish on the deck and throw the entrails overboard.
5.) Great white sharks can also be dangerous to humans, but they are rarely seen here.
6.) In nearly 200 years (1828 – 2018) there have been 159 shark attacks and 10 deaths in the waters of the state of Hawaii. Compare that to the nine ocean-related (non-shark) deaths on Maui in January 2018 alone.
7.) It’s well known that sharks are attracted to blood. But there’s another human smell to which they are attracted: urine.
8.) A shark’s upper jaw is not firmly attached to its head and its teeth are regularly shed and then replaced.
9.) Like many tourists, sharks like to lay out and tan. They do this to make their skin darker, thus harder to see in the water.
10.) Fossils of complete sharks are very rare. Why? Because rather than having a bony skeleton, their skeletal system is made up of cartilage, connective tissue and/or muscle. These things do not preserve as well as bone. Paleontologists are able to piece together what ancient sharks looked like by studying fossilized teeth, scales and sometimes calcified vertebrae.
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