Wildlife officials continue warning the public to stay out of the water at “Sherwood’s” at Waimanalo Bay Beach Park as sharks feed on a decomposing whale carcass.
Shark warning signs went up at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday after Honolulu Ocean Safety lifeguards spotted the carcass floating approximately 300 yards from shore. Later, lifeguards on jet skis reported seeing at least three tiger sharks measuring 12- to 13-feet long feeding on it.
The decomposing carcass is believed to be of an adult humpback whale, and officials say it appeared to drift closer to the beach this afternoon, as close as 100 yards from shore.
Kailua resident Traci Kaleiwahea, along with other beachgoers, watched from shore as officials and lifeguards went up to close to investigate the carcass, which appeared on the horizon as a floating, white blob.
Kaleiwahea had hoped to go for a morning swim at Sherwood’s before learning about the carcass, but she says it was a sign that Tuesday was not the day to go in the water.
“That’s okay,” she said. “It’s just a sign. For Hawaiians, it’s a sign — don’t do it.”
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are in the process of determining what to do about the carcass.
Options include towing it out to sea or letting the current naturally bring it to shore. Officials said Native Hawaiian practitioners will be engaged in the decision, and to provide cultural protocols.
Lifeguards, along with state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers, will continue patrolling the beach to ensure people do not enter the water.
Officials also warned that tissue from the carcass began washing on shore Monday afternoon, and that there have been reports of dogs eating some of it along the beach. Officials remind dog owners to keep their canines on leashes, and away from the carcass tissue to prevent them from getting sick.
Federal and state laws also prohibit the removal of any body parts or bones from protected marine species such as humpback whales.
The Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation will be closing Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, including the access gate, at 7 p.m., an hour and a half earlier Tuesday, to limit nighttime access to the beach.
The beach park reopened at its regular time at 7 a.m. today.
According to protocol, shark warning signs will remain up until at least noon today, then be reassessed.