- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Scientists are saying the shark most likely to bite you likes hanging out in shallower waters.

Tiger sharks are often the most likely culprit in shark bites in Hawaii, and researchers are beginning to believe the tiger shark’s favorite destination is Maui.

The predators prefer coastal shelf areas in depths of less than 600 feet, and the Maui County islands have a coastal shelf that extends up to 10 miles offshore, larger than most other Hawaiian islands, said shark scientist Carl Meyer.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://goo.gl/YW3Ohd) Saturday that the findings might explain a higher incidence of shark encounters off Maui in 2012 and 2013.

Meyer and Kim Holland, senior shark scientist at the University of Hawaii’s Hawaii, began tracking the tigers after a cluster of shark bite incidents off Maui.

In 2013 eight of 14 shark encounters - two fatal - occurred in Maui waters. The year before, seven of 11 encounters were near Maui.

“What this study has done is really drawn back the veil on how the tiger shark uses the coastal habitats around Maui,” Meyer said. “So we’ve gone from knowing very little to having a fairly robust pattern of tiger sharks around Maui.”

Scientists began by tagging 18 large tiger sharks taken from Maui waters with satellite tracking devices. Last month they tagged eight sharks off Oahu.

Each time a tagged shark was detected by satellite, a circle was drawn on a map. The study’s mapping shows waters between Maui, Lanai and Kahoolawe clogged with overlapping circles. Numerous detections also were found around Molokai.

The shelf habitat may be good for mating and pupping, and could be a good source for food. Tiger sharks feed on reef fishes and other reef creatures, and as they grow they consume octopus, crabs, and some birds and mammals. The biggest also chomp on other sharks and turtles.

Oahu’s North Shore also showed a concentration of shark detections, but few were found elsewhere around the island. Oahu’s results were preliminary.

Both Oahu and Maui have high levels of recreational use, yet Maui has a higher rate of shark bites. Researchers are trying to determine the reason, Holland said.

“We are seeing the exact same depth preferences around Oahu, but the most frequently used sites don’t line up with popular swimming and surfing sites to the extent that they do around Maui,” Holland said.

View tiger shark tracks online at www.pacioos.org/projects/sharks

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com


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