Saturday, February 04, 2006

Hawaii, not unknown to great white sharks

More great white shark sightings in Hawaiian waters are creating a buzz among locals, who aren't accustomed to hearing about up-close encounters with the ocean's most feared predator. Shark expert John Naughton, who works for the National Marine Fisheries Service, says, "This is quite unusual to be able to document a couple white sharks in a short time period."

A group monitoring whales off Kona on Monday photographed a 14 footer.

On Maui, a kayaker near Molokini Crater says he was trailed by a shark. Experts don't know why the sharks come here.

"They meander through the islands. For what purpose we don't know. We suspect it may be something to do with reproduction," says Naughton.

Naughton says he and his colleagues are tracking the movement of these sharks, working with mainland colleagues.

"They have photo archives with a lot of these sharks and we're trying to match the scars with the animal we've seen here, with the animals there."

Naughton says great white are a protected species in many areas. "White sharks have been overfished for years and their populations are decimated. We're actually trying to protect them, trying to increase the population. They're just a magnificent animal. They're really the tyrannosaurus rex of the ocean. We'd like to bring back the populations to a healthy balance."

Naughton says he's not surprised by all the recent shark sightings, and attributes it more to the prevalence of photography equipment rather than an uptick in visiting sharks.


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