Saturday, February 04, 2006

Kayaker's encounter with great white shark

Two people kayaking about a mile off Maui's Kihei coast reported an encounter with a large white shark at midday yesterday, according to state officials.

The shark, which was estimated at 18 feet long by a professional dive boat captain, exhibited "very interesting behavior," said Randy Honebrink, a biologist and education specialist with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"It had been hanging around by the kayak, came up close to it, bumped it, then continued to follow it for 10 to 15 minutes," Honebrink said he was told by the tour boat captain. "There was also a humpback whale and calf not too far away from where the kayakers were, so there were a number of things the shark could have been interested in."

"Apparently (the kayakers) were concerned enough to flag down a passing tour boat," which took them on board between Makena Beach
* and Molokini Island, Honebrink said.

No beaches were closed, but nearby hotels were informed, said DLNR spokesman Clifford Inn. He did not have any information on the identity of the kayakers.

The Coast Guard was informed of the shark sighting at 12:12 p.m. yesterday and broadcast warnings about it for boaters in the vicinity, said Coast Guard civilian worker Chris Kimbrough.
"It could have been a white shark or a tiger shark," Honebrink said. "I don't think anybody's ever going to be able to confirm what it was."

White sharks, also known as great white sharks, are known to be in Hawaii waters but not in large numbers and are not often seen, Honebrink said.

On Dec. 28, about three miles off Haleiwa, Jimmy Hall, owner of Hawaii Shark Encounters, videotaped and swam with a great white shark 18 to 20 feet long.

A great white shark that had some distinctive markings was photographed at Molokini about a year ago, Honebrink said. "I don't know if that one has been compared with (the video) footage of the one (in Haleiwa) a month ago or not."


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