East Hawaii News

UPDATE: Beach Where Shark Bite Occurred Reopening

December 11, 2013, 12:42 PM HST
* Updated December 18, 6:14 PM
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***Updated 11:42 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 12.***

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Hawaii County lifeguards will reopen the beach at Punaluu today at noon today after a Hawaii Fire Department flyover this morning did not show any presence of sharks in nearshore waters.

***Updated 1:52 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11:

A Ka`u beach has been closed after a Kona man was bitten by a shark this morning while body-boarding with two friends.

The 29-year-old Captain Cook man was taken to Ka`u Hospital in Pahala with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

A police spokeswoman said the man sustained lacerations to his right hand and knee. He was expected to be released following treatment.

Police said the incident occurred at about 8 a.m. at Ninole Cove, which is located just south of Punalu`u Beach Park.

Modified Google Maps image (click to enlarge).

Modified Google Maps image (click to enlarge).

Capt. Burt Shimabukuro said the victim was assisted to shore by the other body-boarders who also took him to the hospital.

He said Ka`u police were notified of the incident by hospital personnel.

The man’s name is not being released, Shimabukuro said.

The man’s friends told officers that he was bitten by a tiger shark that was 10-12 feet in length.

The man was paddling back out after catching a wave when he was hit by the shark and knocked off his board about 60 feet from shore.

According to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the water in that area was between 8 and 12 feet in depth.

The beach has been closed until at least Thursday.

Fire department Battalion Chief Warren Sumida said a flyover of the area was done by one of the department’s helicopters shortly after noon.

“They didn’t see any sign of sharks in the area,” he said.

Sumida said another flyover will be done Thursday morning. If no sharks are spotted, the beach will be reopened at about noon.

The victim's friends identified the animal as a tiger shark 10-12 feet in length.

Friends of the latest Big Island victim of a shark bite identified the animal as a tiger shark 10-12 feet in length.

This was the fourth shark attack in Big Island waters this year. None were fatal.

In the most recent incident, 16-year-old Jimmy “Ulu Boy” Napeahi was attacked Aug. 18 while sitting on his surf board off the Pohoiki boat ramp in lower Puna. A tiger shark 12- to 14-feet length was spotted in the area by the crew of a fire department helicopter arriving at the scene.

In the other incidents:

2013 will likely come to be known as the year of shark attacks in Hawai`i.

After averaging a little more than four incidents in the previous decade – including 11 in 2012, which was previously the highest ever recorded in a single year — there have been at least 13 attacks in Hawai`i waters so far this year.

Eight of those occurred off Maui, including two that resulted in deaths — the first fatal shark attacks in the state since a 2004 incident off Maui.

Before this year, shark attacks in Big Island waters have been relatively infrequent. The four attacks appear to be by far the most recorded in a single year since such records have been kept.

The last time there were multiple attacks off the Big Island in a single year was 1981.

The “unprecedented spikes” in shark attacks in the past two years prompted the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to initiate a two-year, $186,000 study of shark movements around Maui.

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