A 10-year-old boy was bitten by a shark Wednesday afternoon near west Oahu’s Makaha Beach, a location that saw its last shark attack 46 years ago.
The local boy suffered serious lacerations to his upper right thigh and puncture wounds to his lower leg while bodyboarding “about 50 yards from shore,” according to Honolulu Emergency Services Dept. spokeswoman Shayne Enright.
During a Thursday morning press conference, Bruce Anderson, administrator of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) division of aquatic resources, said that photos of the injuries have been sent to experts at the International Shark Attack File in Florida for analysis, but “there is little doubt now that this was a shark bite.”
“It was obviously a bite of a large animal,” Anderson reported. “It wasn’t a barracuda. It wasn't an eel. It was something like a shark.”
The Oct. 28 incident marks the third time in three weeks that sharks have bitten people in the ocean around Oahu. Earlier in the month, a local surfer was attacked on the island’s North Shore, leading to the amputation of his left leg. On Oct. 17, a local swimmer was bitten several hundred yards off Lanikai Beach on windward Oahu, resulting in the amputation of one of his feet.
“As far as we know, the 10-year-old boy that was attacked is doing well and will probably be out of the hospital soon,” Anderson reported Thursday.
Although Anderson insisted shark attacks remain rare in Hawaii, he did say there has been an increase over the years, attributing that trend, in part, to more people in the water. He noted, however, that the islands do typically see more shark attacks in October and November.
“It may coincide with the time when female sharks are having pups,” he explained. “They’re hungry, sometimes starving, and of course looking for food. So that might explain why we have more bites in October than in other months of the year.”
The Makaha incident is the seventh shark attack in the Hawaiian Islands this year, including one fatality on Maui after a snorkeler was bitten by a shark 200 yards offshore.
Anderson cautioned ocean users to avoid swimming in murky water, especially after periods of heavy rain, noting that “sharks mistake people for something else” in those conditions.
Asked during his press conference about culling, or fishing specifically for sharks in Hawaiian waters to reduce attacks on people, Anderson said that approach hasn’t worked in the past.
“Scientists who study shark movement and behavior have noted for some time now that sharks have a wide range and rarely stay in the same place for long,” he explained. “When we look at the incidents of shark attack and the periods of time when there was active culling of sharks, culling was not effective in reducing the number of attacks.”
Hawaii travelers looking to reduce shark-related risk will find a list of 10 safety tips at the DLNR’s shark website