Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is advising ocean users be extra cautious during October, warning that shark attacks have historically been most common during the month.
"October is the month with the greatest number of shark bites," Bruce Anderson, the administrator of DLNR's Division of Aquatic Resources, said in an Oct. 3 statement. "We recommend ocean users exercise a little more caution this month especially, and also through the end of the year. The chance of being bitten by a shark in Hawaiian waters is always extremely small but does increase a bit during this time frame."
DLNR officials noted that ancient Hawaiian chants have warned for centuries about the increased risk of shark bites in the fall and noted that University of Hawaii researchers believe female tiger sharks migrate to the main Hawaiian Islands during the fall to give birth.
"The increased number of sharks in near shore waters, combined with their need to feed to replenish lost energy stores, may increase the likelihood of a bad encounter with a human," DLNR officials said in the statement.
There were 122 unprovoked shark attacks in Hawaiian waters from 1980 through 2015, according to DLNR data. Twenty six of those occurred in October. There were three shark attacks around the island of Oahu in 2016. However, no October attack in Hawaii has been fatal.
"The best thing ocean users can do to minimize their risk of shark bites is to utilize beaches with lifeguards, stay near other people, and don't go too far from shore," Anderson said. "Also, avoid murky water and areas near stream mouths."
More safety information is available at the DLNR website.