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Shark bites California man, 73, at Maui beach

  • DLNR

    DLNR responds to shark incident

A roughly 8-foot shark bit a 73-year-old California man in the calf this morning while he was snorkeling roughly 40 yards off Kaanapali Beach, fronting the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas.

The visitor survived with only a few cuts to the leg, the Maui Fire Department reported, and was taken to Maui Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and released.

The man managed to swim back to shore on his own and called 911, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a news release, describing the area as off Airport Beach.

While shark attacks are rare, the incident underscores the prevalence of shark bites in waters off the Valley Isle compared to all other Hawaiian islands, as revealed in research unveiled in 2016 by the University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

Researchers attributed it to the large shallow ocean shelf of reef habitat surrounding Maui, where a wide variety of prey exists for tiger sharks. And it makes for a perfect breeding ground and pupping for tiger sharks.

In 2020, half of all encounters, or three out of the six recorded by the state Division of Aquatic Resources, were on Maui. (They include only confirmed unprovoked attacks to humans.)

The last Hawaii shark attack occurred on Maui on Dec. 8, 2020, at 7:55 a.m. at Honolua Bay in 10 feet or so of turbid water. The victim, R. Warren, did not survive several lacerations to the leg by a 14-foot tiger shark.

Friday’s shark bite incident also occurred about the same time, at 7:45 a.m., in calm waters, MFD reported.

“We were very pleased this one had a good outcome,” said Tracy Dallarda, spokeswoman for Maui Health.

The Division of Aquatic Resources put up shark warning signs from Puu Kekaa (Black Rock Beach) to Honokowai Beach Park, which will remain up until at least noon today. They will be removed once officers and lifeguards assess the ocean for sharks and give the all clear.

A DAR education specialist met the victim at the hospital to gather more information on the shark bite to provide information to the state and international databases.

The state’s website also shows that another tiger shark attack occurred near the latest attack at Honokowai, on Nov. 26, 50 to 100 yards from shore, while the victim was snorkeling in turbid water at a depth of about 12 feet. The victim received severe lacerations to the torso, left arm and forehead.

And on Feb. 5, a 10-foot tiger bit the tail of a stand-up paddleboarder’s board at Wailea Beach about 300 yards from shore.

In 2019, the encounters were a bit more spread out, and Maui had three of the 14 cases.

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