Shark sighting closes beaches

Officials shut down 2-mile stretch in Kaanapali for 2 hours

The Maui News
November 20, 2002

Staff Writer

KAANAPALI - A shark sighting on Tuesday closed Kaanapali beaches again, two days after a woman was attacked while swimming 100 yards offshore.

The 6-foot shark was sighted in dirty water at the river mouth and confirmed by officials at Hanakaoo Beach Park, said Ocean Safety Supervisor Archie Kalepa. Beaches were closed for two hours a mile in either direction, from the Sheraton Maui to Mala Wharf.

Randy Awo, enforcement chief for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), said a second shark was reported near the Aston KaŽanapali Shores, but the sighting was unconfirmed.

Shark sightings are not unusual, he said, but they tend to receive more attention from the public and the media after an attack has occurred. He said the last confirmed shark sighting was two or three weeks ago, when whitetip reef sharks were seen in waters off Kaanapali.

On Sunday, San Diego resident Julie Glance was injured when a shark bit her right shoulder, arm and hand while she was swimming off the beach fronting the Embassy Vacation Resorts Kaanapali.

DLNR Director Gilbert Coloma-Agaran, who chairs the state Shark Task Force, said task-force members would interview Glance but he did not expect other action to be taken.

The interview is regular protocol, but members who speak with the attack victim will ask her to clarify her description of the shark that bit her. Coloma-Agaran said he wanted to find out if the description she gave reporters of a 6-foot-long gray shark with a white-tipped tail came from her own memory or if someone suggested it to her.

Glance's description would suggest a whitetip reef shark, which has distinctive white markings on the tips of the dorsal fin and the tail. But the whitetip tends to be no more than 5 feet long and is considered to be a nonaggressive animal.

Coloma-Agaran said the task force did not have plans to post permanent signs or take other steps to warn beachgoers that sharks may be present.

In a Monday news conference, Glance said she hadn't known sharks were in Hawaii waters, and she felt the state should have done more to warn her and other visitors.

"I think that's fairly naive," Coloma-Agaran said. "Sharks are a part of our natural environment."

Task-force member Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr. said he urged the state years ago to create a brochure that could be passed out to tourists, warning them of sharks and other ocean hazards like undertow, shore break, eels and other marine life.

He said he was amazed that Glance didn't know Hawaii had sharks.

"This is a prime example of education," he said.

He said people should be informed about sharks, including the fact that, at this time of year, the animals are pregnant and giving birth and so are "very irritable." He would also warn people that urine, cuts and menstruation can attract the interest of sharks.

Maxwell said that although the task force didn't decide to go ahead with the brochure idea, he was in the process of developing an informational placard together with the Maui Ocean Center.

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Ho`iho`i Mai