Are sharks really a concern in Hawaii?
General: DIY / How-To
|Guide Series: Hawaii Dangers
Each year, around 9 million tourists descend upon the Hawaiian Islands with the intention of enjoying the beautiful scenery and fine hospitality. Many of these tourists enjoy hours of relaxation on the golden beaches, and sometimes, cool off with a dip in the ocean.
What many never stop to think about, however, is what else they share Hawaiian waters with. Just below the surface of the water, multitudes of sea creatures can be found, some of them with teeth sharper than knives and looking for a meal.
Shark Attacks, Rare But Fascinating
The small amount of shark attacks that take place yearly in Hawaii means there's very little to be worried about as a local, or as a tourist. These wondrous creatures are highly unlikely to bite a person, and even less likely to kill them.
Despite the rarity of shark attacks in Hawaii, they do sometimes happen, and when they do, they make headline news. This makes people feel a little nervous about swimming for some time afterwards. Days or weeks go by and we forget all about it because, well, we're people and forgetting is what we're good at. Just remember, media outlets are out to sell newspapers, magazines, and bring people to their websites. They highly publicize a relatively tiny amount of shark attacks because they bring in big ratings.
There's nothing sexy about a headline that says "This year over 9 million people safely enjoyed a day at the beach" but one that reads "3 people attacked by sharks in Hawaii last year" will grab eyeballs and sell articles. Always take what the media tells you with a grain of salt because their motives are always financially motivated. Alway. Period.
Official Figures And Notable Attacks
Each year, just a handful of shark attacks place in and around Hawaii, and very few are fatal. In 2014, there were just three attacks, despite millions of visitors coming to Hawaii. The year 2013 saw several more attacks, with 14 taking place, but that's still a remarkably low number considering Hawaii's popularity.
Sadly, April 2015 saw one of Hawaii's most notable attacks take place. A 65-year-old woman was fatally killed by a shark. Her body was later found 200-yards off-shore.
Despite the news frightening many who had intentions of visiting Hawaii, the figures still indicate that there is a very low risk of being attacked. In fact, since 1828, there have been just 10 fatal attacks in total. 10!
Even More Dangerous Than Sharks...
I think you have to put shark attacks into perspective to truly understand how rarely an attack occurs.
- In 1996, over 43,000 people in the USA were injured by toilets while only 13 were injured by sharks. See, toilets are the killer at large!
- For every one human that a shark has killed, humans have killed two million sharks.
- Since 1959, the entire state of Florida has had 9 fatalities from sharks. Since that same time they've had 459 fatalities from lightning!
- The chances of a shark killing you are one in 3.7 million. The chances of dying from the flu are 1 in 63 and you have a 1 in 218 chance of dying from a random fall.
- In 1996 there were over 2,500 Americans injured by room air fresheners but only 13 injured from sharks. That same year over 11,000 of us were injured by buckets. Buckets! What the heck are you people doing with your buckets?
To improve your chances of staying safe and enjoying your time in Hawaii, there are certain precautions you can take to prevent attacks from taking place. These precautionary measures are recommended by government authorities, as well as locals who have seen much happen on the islands.
First, don't swim alone and make sure whenever you do swim that you're in a lifeguarded area. Avoid swimming at dusk, and try not to splash too much (that's a sign of distress to nearby sharks). Make sure the water you swim in is clear, for obvious reasons but also because sharks love murky waters. Get out of the water if you see fish and turtles fleeing. And, of course, don't go in if you see a shark!
Second, try not to alert sharks to your presence. Avoid wearing bright jewelry or contrasting colors while in the water, and don't swim if you have any open wounds. Sharks can smell that blood from miles away, or so the marine biologists tell us.
While in Hawaii, shark attacks should probably be the least of your worries. More people are killed or injured on the roads or by drowning than because of sharks. Sharks hunt their natural prey in the water, so aren't likely to bother humans unless a freak incident occurs. Taking the necessary precautions recommended above will likely see you avoid a nasty shark bite. Hawaii is a fantastic place to visit and shouldn't have its image as a dream holiday destination tarnished by the rarity of a shark attack.
Besides, it's the sun that's probably more of a concern than sharks so learn how to Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer. Or maybe it's a Flash Flood, Leptospirosis, or even just a driver playing on their phone while you're crossing the street. There are many of dangerous things in Hawaii and beyond, but sharks probably aren't as big of a concern as you're thinking. On that note, don't forget to read Hawaii Dangers - Read Before You Go.
But let's say you are attacked by a shark. What should you do? I'd fight back! Most experts suggesting going for the sensitive bits of the shark which would be the eyes and gills. Poke, pull, prod, and make it feel some pain and then get out of the water as fast as you can.
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