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The Sharks of Hawaii

Hawaiian Name: "Ka Mano"

You can be as intimate with a heartless sea creature as you can with a child. Each of them has a soul. Each of them has a reflection inside its eyes that comes out toward the camera.” - David Doubilet, photographer

Sharks are an important aspect of Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian dictionary lists nine Hawaiian Gods that were associated with sharks, with some revered as important to specific areas.

Some also believe that under certain conditions, a deceased relative could be reincarnated in the form of a specific shark known by a special name. A shark could be a type of guardian spirit, an "`Aumakua" - protectors of certain families (read more at hawaiisharks.com).


It is a truly awesome and unique experience to see top predators in the wild. I, myself (being in the water on a regular basis), do not want the take-home image of a shark in an induced frenzy mode embedded in my mind, but would rather appreciate their natural beauty in a sharks more serene state of curiosity.

The chances of being attacked by a shark while in the water are relatively slim, but the threat is real. If you are interested, there's a lot of shark attack statistics and information available online or see Discovery Channel's Shark Week unprovoked shark attack map from 1998 - 2002. You can minimize your chances of being attacked by following some basic guidelines:

  • Avoid swimming in waters with runoff (i.e. after a heavy rainfall) or sewage, or areas frequented by sport or commercial fisherman - Kewalo Basin was notoriously known for shark sightings due to bait being tossed off the boats and fish being cleaned nearby. Be careful when the ocean is murky - you can't see sharks (stealth hunters) coming. However they have senses that can detect you. (Learn more about sharks' senses.)
  • Don't splash around unnecessarily - erratic movement signals injured marine life to a shark.
  • Don't wear shiny jewelry - the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.
  • Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present - common sense.
  • Do not swim if you are actively bleeding (for women on their monthly cycles there are some precautions you can take)- sharks have an acute sense of smell and are attracted to blood and urine
  • Avoid swimming during darkness or twilight hours - that's when sharks seem most active (although this belief has been recently challenged).

Tagging Baby Hammerhead Sharks in Hawaii Video

Check us out on Shark Week! We took out crew from BBC to film the dolphin and turtle footage for Tiger Shark: Beyond Fear.

Interesting Links

cookie cutter shark









Info about White-Tip Reef Sharks in Hawaii from whitetip.org.

Heed words of kupuna on sharks - The ocean is the shark's world, not ours. Studies have shown that whenever a shark attack occurs, the animal does not "hang around" and can be miles away in a short period of time after the attack.

Man, not sharks, biggest predator of deep; 'shark attacks are incredibly rare'

Sharks benefit from efforts to protect their environment from the Honolulu Advertiser: Sharks are the most feared animal in the ocean. They reside at the top of the food chain. And they may just now be emerging from a crisis.

Sharks’ Population Shrunk 90 Percent In 15 Years

"Sharks have survived, virtually unchanged, for millions of years. They are highly evolved, as perfectly in tune with their environment as any living thing on the planet. For them to be driven to extinction by man, a relative newcomer, would be more than an ecological tragedy; it would be a moral travesty." - Peter Benchley

Sharks, with their rows of razor-sharp teeth and unblinking eyes, are the stuff of horror movies. But shark scientists say it's time to forget the exaggerated hype of "Jaws." In reality, they say, sharks are in more danger from us than we are from them.

"The real story in sharks is not 'Shark bites man,' it's 'Man bites shark,' " said George Burgess, director of shark research at the University of Florida.

Human deaths from shark attacks are rare. In the past 12 years, sharks have killed eight people off U.S. coasts and 88 people worldwide, according to statistics compiled by the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Of the 400 species of sharks, only about 5 percent are considered a potential danger to people, scientists say. But people are a definite danger to sharks.

After inhabiting the Earth for an estimated 450 million years, sharks are being destroyed by rising consumer demand for shark meat and increasingly efficient fishing techniques that land sharks at a rate far outpacing their relatively slow ability to reproduce, scientists say. Several species -- including dusky sharks, sand tiger sharks and night sharks -- are candidates for the federal endangered species list.

Experts estimate shark populations have decreased as much as 90 percent in the past 15 years, according to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Millions are killed each year by commercial fishing fleets that either target them directly or catch them accidentally in nets or on lines while fishing for tuna, swordfish or other seafood. Sharks are killed off at an average of 11,000 every hour, of every day.

Shark fins also are sent to Asia -- especially China -- for use in soup, considered a delicacy to be eaten at weddings and other special occasions. Increased spending power by middle-class Asians has raised the demand for fins, which can sell for as much as $25 apiece.

How to help

  • Don't buy products that contain shark cartilage, such as some medical and diet products.
  • Don't buy shark jaws or teeth as souvenirs.
  • Don't buy or eat shark fin soup at home or while traveling abroad. To make the soup, fishermen typically cut off the sharks' fins and then throw the animal back to die. The practice has been outlawed in U.S. waters but continues elsewhere.
  • Let your state and federal lawmakers know that you support efforts to promote shark conservation, such as restrictions on fishing for the most vulnerable species.

Sources: Dalhousie University and National Aquarium In Baltimore

"In The End We Will Conserve Only What We Love
We Will Love Only What We Understand
We Will Understand Only What We Are Taught
- Baba Dioum

Our wildlife tours focus on education and conservation so that an interactive relationship can be maintained in the best interest of both humans and dolphins. We teach admiration and deep respect for these wonderful mammals.

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