An increase in shark attacks in Hawaiian waters have set both business owners and tourists on edge, while everyone from fishermen to marine biologists try to determine the cause of the uptick.
According to a study by the University of Hawaii, 14 attacks were reported last year, far more than the three attacks per year reported for 2009, 2010 and 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Carl Meyer, a marine biologist that led the study, said kayaking and paddle boarding has become more popular — filling the waters with food-like shadowy figures for hungry sharks, the Times reported.
But longtime residents who rely on fishing to feed their families say the tsunami in Japan ultimately boosted radiation levels in the water, driving sharks closer to the shoreline and to swimmers. Other marine officials say the Endangered Species Act has just put more sharks in the ocean.
Whatever the reason, the effect is the same: Shark attacks are on the rise and residents and tourists alike on the islands are feeling the fear.
The Times reported that two shark fatalities in 2013 — a snorkeler from Germany and a fisherman from Washington – both occurred in the same area by Makena State Park. After the snorkeler's death, the state set aside $186,000 for a study of tiger sharks to determine their habits.
Meanwhile, swimmers have been taking especial caution.
"I went in waist-deep, that was it," Karen O'Brien, a Toronto tourist, 49, told the Times, explaining her fear of the water began after learning of the shark attack on the German tourist.
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