Scientists Tracking 35 Tiger Sharks Off Hawaii

Over 30 tiger sharks are being tracked by satellite in the waters off Hawaii, after state officials funded a study on the predators' movements amid an unprecedented spike in attacks.

According to Hawaii News Now, Dr. Carl Meyer from the UH Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology is the lead researcher conducting the shark study. He shared his findings in public for the first time Thursday night, in a presentation at Chaminade University.

Researchers captured and tagged 35 large tiger sharks, including 24 in the waters off Kihei, Olowalu and Kahului, Maui. When they began their study last October, the scientists believed that the tiger sharks were wide-ranging predators that didn't spend a considerable amount of time in the same areas. That assertion is now being challenged by data collected from the tagged sharks.

"We are seeing a strong preference for coastal shelf habitats shallower than 600 ft," Meyer said. "Although these sharks also roam far out into the open-ocean, they are most frequently detected in the area between the coast and the 600 ft depth contour which is up to 10 miles offshore around Maui."

According to Maui Now, the researchers found that coastal sites frequented by the tiger sharks lie just off some of the island's most popular beaches. Dr. Kim Holland, a senior shark scientist also with the UH Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology, noted that preliminary data from sharks tagged off O'ahu revealed some differences in their behavior.

"We are seeing the exact same depth preferences around O'ahu, but the most frequently used sites don't line up with popular swimming and surfing sites to the extent that they do around Maui," he said. "Both O'ahu and Maui have high levels of recreational ocean use, yet Maui has a higher rate of shark bites. We are trying to determine why."

Recently, a group of divers was filmed feeding tiger sharks by hand in the waters off Hawaii. As the Inquisitr noted, some individual sharks are such frequent visitors to the area that locals have even named them.

Hawai'i's Department of Land and Natural Resources initiated the two-year-long study to track the movements of tiger sharks after eight attacks occurred statewide last year, with 10 reported the previous year. So far, four tiger shark attacks have taken place in the area this year.

[Image: University of Hawaii (Luiz Rocha) via Hawaii News Now]