Shark expert: Rate of attacks on ‘typical pace’ in Hawaii

(HONOLULU, Hawaii) KHON – There have been two shark attacks in one month on Oahu — one Saturday on the windward side and the other on the North Shore less than two weeks ago — making six shark attacks in Hawaii so far this year.

KHON2 wanted to know how this compares to past years and shark expert Kim Holland of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology said the rate of attacks is on a typical pace for what normally happens in Hawaii.

But Holland didn’t just talk about sharks: He said there are “lots of things in the ocean” that can hurt humans, and what you do after a rare attack happens is what everyone should know about.

For instance, hours after the shark attack in Lanikai, emergency medical services responded to initial reports of another shark attack in Waikiki. But it turns out, the swimmer’s injuries were consistent with an eel bite.

“Eels are very very predatory fish,” said Holland. “They’re active at night. They’ve got large teeth, they often don’t let go after they make a bite.

“You could see how, at first glance, the wound caused by a bad attack by an eel could look like a shark bite.”

Kim Holland studies sharks, and while he said no one knows why sharks bite humans, we are better equipped to deal with such bites.

“Most deaths in the old days come from shock and blood loss. Now, we have good paramedics and lifeguards, and there are people who know how to do first aid.

“The attack rate may be about the same, but the fatality rate has gone way down,” he said.

Bottom line, Holland said you can’t prevent a shark or an eel bite, but you can be better prepared if the unthinkable happens.

“The most recent events really point out the number-one safety tip, and that is, do not go out into the water by yourself.”

Because sharks are there in the water, even if you can’t see them. “Every day, there are tens of thousands of people in the water in Hawaii. Every day, we know there are lots of sharks in the water,” he said.

And avoid the ocean if there is brown water. “We know large tiger sharks tend to switch their diet as they get older,” Holland said. “They eat dead things. One of the things they eat is stuff washed away from floods.

“It’s a good idea after heavy rain, don’t go near river mass. It may be areas tiger sharks are targeting.”

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