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California Man Suffers Minor Injuries After Apparent Shark Attack Off Maui

January 22, 2021, 2:51 PM HST
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DLNR responds to an apparent shark encounter off Airport Beach. (PC: DLNR)

A 73-year-old California man is being treated for minor injuries after encountering a shark this morning while snorkeling off Airport Beach in front of the Maui Westin at Ka‘anapali.

The incident occurred at about 7:20 a.m. According to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), there were no other snorkelers or swimmers in the immediate vicinity and the man swam back to shore on his own and called 911.

“First responders, ocean safety, and conservation law enforcement officials are always pleased when someone walks away from a shark encounter with only minor injuries,” DLNR stated. “Today’s incident provided a close-up look at the standard shark incident protocols employed by the DLNR Divisions of Aquatic Resources (DAR), the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), and county partners.”

DAR and DOCARE are not typically first responders, but once on the scene, they coordinate closely with county emergency medical services and ocean safety personnel. Today, like in many previous incidents, DAR Education Specialist Adam Wong arrived with shark warning signs to post on the beach. He then headed to the hospital. Wong is one of several DLNR staff trained to interview shark bite victims, when possible, to gather more information and to provide critical details to state and international databases on shark incidents worldwide.

DOCARE officers also arrive with signs, some of which are loaded onto an ATV to be put up along a stretch of beach, one mile on either side of the incident site. The signs themselves become photographic memories for visitors.

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Until sundown, a half dozen DOCARE officers will continue patrolling the beach on-foot and by all-terrain vehicle to warn people not to go swimming, snorkeling, or diving. County lifeguards also warn people.

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DOCARE Lt. Ron Cahill explained long-in-place, shark-human encounter, safety protocols.

“Shark warning signs have been posted from Pu’u Keka’a (Black Rock Beach) to Honokōwai Beach Park warning people to stay out of the ocean until an all-clear is given,” Cahill said.

Warning signs always remain in place until noon of the day following all shark incidents, after officers and lifeguards have assessed the ocean to be sure there is not any shark presence.

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DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla and DAR Administrator Brian Neilson point out that DLNR’s shark incident response procedures are designed to provide a high degree of awareness to beachgoers after an incident, with a total focus on public safety.

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