Shark Attacks in Hawaii

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Tiger shark movements around Maui, from University of Hawai, click map of Hawaii Below

Shark Attacks in Hawaii
Year — Total Bites — Fatal — Non-fatal
2012 — 10 — 0 — 10
2013 — 13 — 1 — 12
2014 — 7 — 0 — 7
2015 — 7 — 1 — 6
2016 — 10 — 0 — 10
2017 — 6 — 0 — 6
2018 — 3 — 0 — 3
2019 — 9 — 0 — 9
2020 — 5 — 1 — 4
2021 — 6 — 0 — 6
TOTAL — 76 — 3 — 73
[Source: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History]

On April 22, 2018, Dylan McWilliams, a man who once survived a bear attack, was bitten in the leg by a shark off the shore of Kauai. The wound was not life-threatening but required multiple stitches. In May 2019, Thomas Smiley, a retired 65-year-old optometrist from Northern California, died after a shark attack off the Maui coast. Witness Allison Keller said Smiley appeared unconscious as rescuers brought him to shore: "It looked like the skin on his wrist was just torn off ... And his entire left leg from his knee down was just missing." [Source: CBS News]

Websites and Resources: Shark Foundation ; International Shark Attack Files, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida ; Tracking Sharks, which records all global shark attacks; Animal Diversity Web (ADW); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Fishbase ; Encyclopedia of Life ; Smithsonian Oceans Portal

Shark Attacks in Hawaii in the 1990s

Attacks in Hawaii in 1997: 1) an 18-year-old Kauai man, whose right leg was amputated after severe attacks on the right hand and both legs 100 yards off Kauai's Waiokapua Bay in October; 2) a spearfisher, whose left leg bitten while night-diving 40 yards off Sunset Beach in June.

Hawaii shark Incidents by activity1950 2020

Attacks in Hawaii in 1999: 1) a Rhode Island woman, 51, severely bitten in the late afternoon on the right buttock while swimming in waters 250 yards off Kona on November; 2) a 16-year-old Kona boy severely bitten on the right arm above and below the elbow while surfing in the early evening 80 yards offshore of the Old Kona Airport in October; 3) a Big Island man, 43, bitten on the right thigh and buttocks while surfing off Honolii at about 10:30 a.m in July; 4) 29-year-old California woman, who died in channel waters off Maui's west side after a shark bit off her arm while she was kayaking in March; and 5) a Haiku woman severely bitten on the leg while swimming more than 200 yards off Kaanapali in March.

Shark Attacks in Hawaii in the Early 2000s

Attacks in in 2000: 1) a snorkeler, 56, of California, bitten at about 11 a.m. on the upper right torso and below the waist in 35-foot waters off Olowalu in October ; 2) a 53-year-old visitor from France severely bitten at 11 a.m. on the lower left leg by a tiger shark while windsurfing in waters seven miles off Kanaha on Maui in August. [Source: Source: State Department of Land & Natural Resources Aquatic Resources Office]

Attacks in 2001: 1) a surfer bitten on the left hand by a small white-tip reef shark in 10-foot waters off Ewa Beach in April; and 2) a surfer bitten on the left hand in 6- to 8-foot-deep waters off Sandy Beach in March.

Attacks in 2002: 1) a San Diego woman, 33, bitten on the right shoulder and forearm about 11 a.m. off Honokowai, Maui, while swimming in November; 2) a 60-year-old woman bitten in waters off Kihei on the left foot while swimming in the late morning in October; 3) a 16-year-old boy bitten on the left foot by a 10-foot-long tiger shark while surfing near Kewalo's harbor channel in August; 4) a 17-year-old body boarder, whose left foot ripped off above the ankle in 8-foot waters about 30 yards from shore at Brennecke's Beach on Kauai in March; and 5) a 35-year-old snorkeler, from Los Angeles, bitten on the buttocks in 20- to 40-foot waters at about 1 p.m. off Olowalu on Maui in January.

Hawaii Incidents by month 1980 2020, from Shark Stewards

Attacks in Hawaii in 2003: 1) a 41-year-old Maui woman bitten on the left thigh and right index finger while wading in shallow waters off Kihei in October; 2)a 60-year-old Manoa man bitten on the right foot in waters off Makua at 8 a.m. by a shark estimated to be about 12 feet long in June; and 3) a 20-year-old Kamuela man bitten in 8-foot waters off Kahaluu on the right calf, ankle and foot by a 6-foot-long shark in May.

There were four shark attacks recorded in 2004 in Hawaii. On March 16 a shark bit a surfer's board 75 feet off Kalihiwai, Kauai. On March 24 a snorkeler received a laceration to her left foot in Punaluu. On April 7 surfer Willis McInnis received fatal wounds to his right leg at Kahana in West Maui. On October 9 spearfisher Davy Sanada received lacerations to the face at Pukoo, Molokai.

There were five shark attacks recorded for 2005 in Hawaii. On February 16, 2005 a shark bit surfer Greg Long's surfboard 40 meters off Sunset Beach. On May 2 a shark bit surfer Scott Hoyt's surfboard 70 meters off Kuau, Maui. On May 14, a shark bit a kayak about a half-mile off North Kihei in South Maui. On October 13, a shark bit surfer Clayton Sado's surfboard 100 meters off Honokowai in North Maui. On December 22 a shark bit the hand of swimmer Jonathan Genant in South Maui.

On February 27, 2006 a shark bit 15-year-old Nicolette Raleigh on the calf at the State Park at Makena Raleigh, a recent Maui resident, was bitten on her right calf while in a few feet of water.

Attacks on the Big Island of Hawaii

In November 1999, shark, estimated at 6 to 8 feet long, attacked a 51-year-old woman who was swimming off the Kona Village Resort. The shark attack was the third shark attack on the Big Island that year and second in north Kona within two months. The victim, Laurie Boyett,. was swimming with her 17-year-old nephew 300 yards off shore from the resort at about 5:20 p.m. when she encountered a gray-colored shark that bit her on her right buttock, police said. Boyett injured some fingers as she used her hands to get away. Police said two employees from the resort heard Boyett and the boy's cries for help and used a small motor boat to get the woman and bring her ashore. Boyett was in satisfactory condition after undergoing surgery. The nephew was unhurt. [Source: Gary Kubota, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 24, 1999]

In October 1999, 16-year-old surfer Jesse Spencer was attacked near dusk off of the Old Kona Airport Park, several miles south of Kona Village Resort attack.

July 1999 43-year-old man was bitten by a shark in waters near Honolii Bridge near Hilo. Authorities said the man, Griffith Yama-guchi, suffered a bite on his right thigh and buttock. The span of the bite was between 14 and 16 inches long. The shark was believed to be between 6 to 8 feet long. The last shark attack on the Big Island was Aug. 17, 1972. [Source: Honolulu Star-Bulletin]

Shark Attacks in Maui

in Hawaii

In December 2022, a 60-year-old Washington state woman completely disappeared while snorkeling in waters off of Maui with her husband and is presumed to have been taken by a shark. Associated Press reported: The woman’s husband and others reported spotting a large shark about 50 yards (45 meters) from shore at Keawakapu Point in south Maui to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. The couple had been snorkeling when he saw a shark swim by but could not see his wife. The shark swam by several times before the man returned to shore and reporting his wife missing, the department said. Rescuers searched from the water and from the sky until nightfall the day of the attack and resumed the search at daybreak. After what was believed to be a tiger shark was spotted, officials put up shark warning signs. The signs were removed after a survey of the area didn’t show that the 3-to-five-meter-long (10-to-12-foot-long) shark was still in the area. The department said it doesn’t release the names of people involved in shark encounters.[Source: Associated Press, December 13, 2022]

In August 2013, A German woman who lost her arm in a shark attack while snorkeling off Maui died a week later from issues related to her injuries. Associated Press reported: Jana Lutteropp, 20, was snorkeling up to 100 yards off Palauea Beach in Makena when the shark bit off her right arm. Rick Moore, 57-year-old high school teacher visiting from California, jumped into the water after hearing her screaming and seeing blood in the surf. He said Lutteropp went in and out of consciousness and kept repeating that she was going to die. [Source: Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, The Associated Press, Aug. 22, 2013]

It's not known what type of shark bit Lutteropp. State officials investigating the attack said witnesses didn't see the animal. Hawaii officials plan to spend the next two years studying tiger shark movements around Maui amid what they call an unprecedented spike in overall shark attacks since the start of 2012. There have been eight attacks statewide this year and 10 in 2012. Hawaii usually sees only three to four attacks each year, and saw one or zero attacks in each of the 11 years between 1980 and 2012, according to state data.

Shark Attacks in Maui in the Mid-2000s

Tiger shark movements around Hawaii, from University of Hawaii

In December 2005, Jonathan Genant of San Diego was alone when a shark attacked him hundreds of yards off Keawakapu Beach in Maui. "His jaws were just humongous," he told CBS correspondent Keahi Tucker from his hospital bed. Genant lost part of his pinky and hand but recovered. Associated Press reported: Genant said he put out his hands to push the shark away, when it chomped down. "It was a really quick, powerful motion," he told Tucker. "I heard the bones snap. From that point, I just — I knew I was in trouble." Losing blood, Genant started kicking to shore on his back, in terror, waiting for the shark to attack again, Tucker said. "I yelled a couple of times to the people on the beach. You know, yelled out, 'Help, help!' And I didn't know if they could hear me," Genant said. People on the beach not only heard his screams, Tucker says, construction worker Alex Stiller swam out to help. He told Tucker that Genant "was holding his hand up … and it was just pouring blood." [Source: CBS News, Associated Press, December 22, 2005]

As Genant was being rushed to the hospital, fire crews put up a helicopter and spotted a 12-foot tiger shark, Tucker says. Lifeguards on jet skis chased the animal into deeper water. Shark warnings quickly went up at beaches all over Maui's south shore. "With the size of this guy, I felt quite fortunate that I could get away as I did," Genant told Tucker.

In December 2006, a Canadian visitor was attacked by a shark near the shoreline of a south Maui beach. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported: Kyle Gruen, 29, was swimming about nine to 13 meters (30 to 40 feet) from the shoreline near Kamaole Beach Park II close to 1 p.m. when a shark bit him on the left leg and hand, according to a witness. "He was screaming, 'Shark!'" said Brad Quinto, the county's acting water safety captain for South Maui. Quinto said that, according to a nearby kayaker, the shark was about 2½ to 3 meters (8 to 10) feet long. A firefighter on a rescue helicopter, patrolling after the attack, saw a big shark near Cove Park, about a half mile north of Kamaole, Quinto said. [Source: Gary Kubota, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 12, 2006]

The beach was closed a mile in either direction of Kamaole Beach Park II at least until 1 p.m. the next day. Gruen suffered about a 15-inch laceration down the top left side of his leg and the top of his hand but won't lose any limbs, his twin brother, Jeff Gruen, said. Jeff Gruen said his brother had cut muscles in his hand and leg that will require stitching, but the doctors feel his brother won't lose any use of his limbs.

Jeff Gruen said he was resting on the beach while his brother swam when he noticed a commotion and saw people carrying someone out of the water. He said he went to see what the commotion was about and realized that the person being carried from the water was his brother. David S. Franks, who was on the beach with his family, said he heard the victim shouting as he made his way out of the water. "He said, 'Call 911.' He was screaming pretty loudly," Franks said. Franks, a paramedic from British Columbia, said he and a firefighter tended to Gruen's wounds, while others went for help. Jeff Gruen said Kyle didn't see a shark but only the gray shape of a fish that bit him. Kyle, who has been a lifeguard, kicked the fish to get away, Jeff said.

Shark Kills Kayaker in Maui

In March 1999, a 29-year-old California woman died in channel waters off Maui's west side after a shark bit off her arm while she was kayaking near Kaanapali. She sank beneath the waves and her body was never recovered. The victim 29-year-old Nahid Davoodabai was a gynecologist who left Iran to live in Sunnyvale, Calif, who was kayaking with her husband, Manouchehr Monazzami-Taghadom, a computer engineer. They were taking their honeymoon to Maui. [Source: Gary T. Kubota, Honolulu Star-Bulletin]

Maui detectives, who have classified the incident as a missing person case, said there was no visible evidence of an attack, such as teeth marks on the kayak. Monazzami-Taghadom and his wife had rented kayak. He said they paddled a kayak for about three hours, before resting and beginning again. Then the wind and current shifted, pushing them away from shore.

"We tried and tried and tried to paddle. We tried everything we could to bring us back to shore," he said. "We started yelling. I guess people couldn't hear us." By about 8 or 8:30 p.m., they were far from shore and drifting, and he and his wife were in the water, hanging on to the rope of the kayak, which had tipped in heavy wind and waves. "It's getting very scary. I told my wife now that it's dark, they cannot find us.

“We have just to hold onto this kayak until morning," he said. "My wife yelled 'shark.' She was pulled down under the water and came back up right away." He said his wife told him her arm was gone, and he pushed her onto the kayak. "I waited for the shark to come back, but nothing happened," he said. He said he used the string from his swim trunks to make a tourniquet, and he squeezed her arm with both hands to stop the bleeding. He said she started hallucinating, asking him if he could love a wife with one arm, and he replied, "I want to be with you, period." "Then she just passed out and died in front of me," he said.

Monazzami-Taghadom said he kept her body with him for the next couple of hours, but the heavy winds and waves struck the kayak once more and turned it over. "I couldn't find her. I lost her. She was gone," he said. He drifted on the kayak until the late morning of the next day, when the kayak reached Kahoolawe. He said he wandered around until he found a telephone and called the police emergency number. Monazzami-Taghadom said Nahid had been his wife for about a year and had been in the United States about eight months. "She left everything behind. She left everything for me," he said.

Extreme Sports Maui, who rented the kayak, issued a news release Thursday expressing deep regret about Monazzami's tragic loss. But the statement maintained that Monazzami was told about a high surf and strong wind advisory. He was instructed to kayak in a sheltered area away from the wind and to remain close to shore. Maui police later recovered the kayak and a life preserver believed to have been worn by a woman reportedly killed by a shark in waters between Kahoolawe and Maui. No trace of blood was found on the kayak by a chemical examination, an investigator said, adding that finding no blood was "kind of unusual" considering the woman's arm was bitten off.

Shark Attacks a Woman Near Where the Kayaker in Maui was Killed

In March 1999, few days before the kayaking woman was killed, a 29-year-old woman, Robyne Knutson was severely bitten on the leg while swimming more than 200 yards from shore and had to undergo intensive surgery to save right leg. Witnesses said Knutson and her boyfriend, Bruce C. Brown, had been swimming near a pod of whales in depths of 50 to 60 feet. The two were at least a quarter-mile offshore in front of the Whaler condominium in Kaanapali when the crew of the 64-foot catamaran Gemini heard cries for help. [Source: Lila Fujimoto, Honolulu Star-Bulletin]

All of a sudden we heard somebody screaming for help,'' said Steve Dettwiler, operations manager of Gemini Charters. We could see this guy; he was way out.'' We could see he was dragging a girl with him, and he yelled to us and said, ‘shark attack,' '' Dettwiler said. He said he kicked the shark in the head and it let go and took off.'' While Dettwiler took the helm, captain J. Dushane and crew member Jeff Worthen helped bring the couple aboard, wrapping the woman's leg in towels. She was conscious and breathing, but she was definitely in a state of shock,'' said Dettwiler, who used his cellular telephone to call for fire and ambulance crews, which quickly arrived at the popular beach where about 150 people were gathered.

Muscle and skin were gone from above the woman's knee to her thigh, a doctor said. This was very serious,'' Schusser said. She was in shock when I got down there a few minutes after it happened.'' Her wound was 14 to 15 inches long. A lifeguard speculated that the mother whale was giving birth at the time, causing the pod to remain in the area even after the attack. He said blood in the afterbirth may have drawn the shark to the area. The size and kind of shark could not initially be determined. While one official said he didn't see any sharks in the water the morning of the attack he said a 12- to 15-foot shark had been spotted off Black Rock in the past couple of weeks.

Hawaiian Teen Loses Foot in Shark Attack

In March 2002, a 17-year-old Kauai boy, Hoku Aki, survived a shark attack but lost a foot in an attack at Brennecke Beach in the Poipu area of Kauai. From his hospital bed Hoku Aki told reporters, "I opened my eyes and I could see the shark. It was just tossing me all over the place...I remember hearing I thought I heard my leg break. I heard the bones snap," Aki said. [Source:, from The LA Times]

"I remember I tried to open the mouth and tried to get it off of me. That didn't work either," he said. "I just grabbed the shark's eye and ripped it out and then it let me go." Aki said he thought he was going to die, but found the strength to make it to shore. "I had a look at it at my leg and I just noticed the skin was all torn up and all my flesh was just torn up. I didn't really notice my foot was gone until I was in the ambulance," he said.

Aki said he wasn't aware of how bad his injuries were. "I was with my brother at the time and he told me that my foot wasn't there and I was just in shock. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it," Aki said. A witness on the beach said, "I saw a pool of blood and the boy yelled help and there were other people on the beach and I saw they were getting up and walking towards him.” A nurse ran for help while a vacationing nurse pulled Aki to shore and stopped the bleeding from his leg. "I'd like to thank the nurse that was at the beach yesterday. She saved my life," Aki said. Aki is a high school track athlete, fire-knife dancer besides being a bodyboarder. Despite the loss of his foot, he remains upbeat. He said he doesn't plan on fire-knife dancing anytime soon and he doesn't plan to go back into the water. "I'll just sit on the beach and watch the waves or something," Aki said. National Marine Fisheries Service biologist John Naughton said hitting at the shark's eye was the right thing to do. "They generally release where the guy hits or fights, especially around the sensitive areas of the gills or the eye," he said.

Shark Attack Halts World Surf League Competition

The all-female Maui Pro, the first event of the World Surf League season, was postponed after a shark attack severely injured a male recreational surfer just two hours before the semifinals were set to begin. “The 56-year-old surfer was paddling 20 yards off the shore of Honolua Bay just before 8 a.m. when he encountered a shark, according to Maui Now. Safety crews that had been hired for the Maui Pro were reportedly in the water and quickly went to help. [Source: Liz Roscher, Yahoo Sports, December 10, 2020]

“The Guardian reported that the surfer, who was not part of the Maui Pro event, sustained injuries to his leg and received CPR on the shore before being taken to the hospital for surgery. Local news station KHON2 reported that the surfer had made it out of surgery and was in stable condition.

According to Yahoo News: “Photos released by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources show images that you’d expect to see in an old cartoon instead of real life. The shark took an enormous bite out of the surfboard, measuring approximately 17 inches. You can actually see the teethmarks in the foam. Following the attack, the World Surf League postponed the Maui Pro until further notice. The Department of Natural Land and Resources will keep warning signs posted in the area until the day after the attack, provided local and state personnel can determine there are no more sharks present in the area. The World Surf League has not yet restarted the Maui Pro.

Anti-Shark Measures in Hawaii

Maeve Reston wrote in the Los Angeles Times: In a state where tourism drives the economy, the rise in shark encounters has alarmed visitors and business owners alike. Two people died after attacks in 2013 — a German snorkeler and a Washington state kayak fisherman. Both incidents occurred in the waters near Makena State Park on Maui. But there are no permanent warning signs on the coastline, despite scores of hotels and tourists. For many years the state has posted notices and closed the beach immediately after a shark attack. The beach then remains shut until noon the next day, if officials on helicopter and jet ski patrols believe that the shark has left the vicinity. For now, the government sees no need to change that policy. [Source: Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times, January 30, 2014]

William Aila Jr. is chairman of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. He said there is no set pattern to the shark attacks and over time they have just come in spikes and lulls. But soon after the German tourist died in August 2013, the agency announced a new two-year, study by the University of Hawaii.This research will look where sharks spend their time.

Shark attacks increased in both 2013 and 2012. In the three years before that, there were just three incidents per year. But, so far, the large number of recent attacks does not appear to have affected tourism in Hawaii. More than 2.1 million people visited Maui last year.

Tourism officials believe visitors to Hawaii realize that shark attacks are still very rare. There is no question, however, that many swimmers and snorkelers are adjusting their routines based on the location of encounters. No pattern has emerged linking the likelihood of a shark attack with the distance from shore.

The kayak fisherman was 900 meters off Makena, while the German snorkeler was 50 meters offshore. But a number of tourists said that they were not swimming out as far because of the sharks. Karen O’Brien, a 49-year-old tourist from Toronto, said she only went into the water as deep as her waist. Last year, O’Brien snorkeled off Molokini, a small island off the southwest coast of Maui. But after she read that the kayak fisherman was also attacked near Molokini, she decided that she wasn’t interested in snorkeling there any more. “Garbage Cans”

The Ocean Hawaii native Lorraine Alesna has long fished at Makena Landing. This is a popular launching spot for kayakers and snorkelers. She shook her head at the jet skiers, kite surfers and other tourists who zoomed into the waves without paying proper attention to the possibility of sharks. Sharks produce their babies during the winter months and attacks on humans are much more likely at that time. People should also avoid cloudy water that attracts the predators, but tourists don’t always do this. “People that come from the mainland have no respect for anything, neither the ocean nor the land,” Alesna said about the visitors to her island. “We grew up knowing, by the elders, what we can and cannot do in certain times of the year.” Like many longtime residents and fishermen here, Alesna offers lots of theories for the rise in shark attacks. She thinks that sharks might be coming closer to the beach in search of green sea turtles to eat. These turtles were in danger of dying out until they were protected by law in 1978. The turtle populations have recovered a bit in Hawaii. Alesna says it is now time for officials to allow people to start hunting the turtles again.

But Carl Meyer, a marine biologist leading the University of Hawaii study, said there was no evidence to support the theory that the sharks were coming closer to humans because of the turtles. Turtles, for example, are just one part of the broad diet favored by tiger sharks. . Many people think that there are more tiger sharks in the water and that they are hungrier than in past years. Meyer doesn’t agree with this. Yet the scientist does know that there are definitely more fishermen, surfers and paddle boarders in the ocean than ever before. So his study will look at whether tiger sharks are more common in areas of Maui where those sports are most popular.

Image Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Shark Files, Florida Museum of Natural History, Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Natural History magazine, Discover magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2023

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