Sharks of Hawaii

Hawaiian Name:Ka Mano

Sharks are an important aspect of Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian dictionary lists nine Hawaiian Gods that were associated with sharks, with some revered as important to specific areas.

Some also believe that under certain conditions, a deceased relative could be reincarnated in the form of a specific shark known by a special name. A shark could be a type of guardian spirit, an “`Aumakua” – protectors of certain families (read more about amakua and sharks).

It is a truly awesome and unique experience to see top predators in the wild. I (being in the water on a regular basis), do not want the take-home image of a shark in an induced frenzy mode embedded in my mind, but would rather appreciate their natural beauty in a sharks more serene state of curiosity.

Check us out on Shark Week! We took out crew from BBC to film the dolphin and turtle footage for Tiger Shark Attack: Beyond Fear.

Hawaii is home to approximately 40 species of sharks ranging in size from the deep-water pygmy shark (about 8 inches) to the whale shark (up to 50 feet or more) 1. Some of the common species found in Hawaiian waters include:

Galapagos shark: Up to 12 ft in length, brownish gray on dorsal surface, white underside, trailing edge of tail is dusky, but not black.

Blacktip reef shark: Up to 6 ft in length, light brown with large black marks on the first dorsal fin and lower tail tips, no interdorsal ridge.

Whitetip reef shark (Hawaiian: mano lalakea): Up to 7 f, generally under 5 ft gray; slightly flat-headed with small white tips on the tops of the first and second dorsal and tail fins

Scalloped hammerhead shark (Hawaiian: mano kihikihi) Length Up to 14 ft, generally under 7 ft, gray with flattened hammer-like head with a central indentation

Tiger shark (Hawaiian: niuhi) Up to 18 ft, generally under 14 ft. Broadly rounded snout; distinctive curved serrated teeth; strong spotting pattern in young sharks, turning to stripes which fade with age.

The Oceanic Whitetip shark is a large pelagic requiem shark with a stocky body, and long white-tipped, rounded fins. The species is typically solitary, though they may gather in large numbers at food concentrations. The IUCN Red List considers the species to be critically endangered due to steeply declining populations as they are harvested for their fins and meat.

Sharks’ Population Shrunk 90 Percent In 15 Years

Sharks, with their rows of razor-sharp teeth and unblinking eyes, are the stuff of horror movies. But it’s time to forget the exaggerated hype of “Jaws.” In reality, sharks are in more danger from us than we are from them.

“The real story in sharks is not ‘Shark bites man,’ it’s ‘Man bites shark,’ ” said George Burgess, director of shark research at the University of Florida.

Human deaths from shark attacks are rare.  Of the 400 species of sharks, only about 5 percent are considered a potential danger to people, scientists say. But people are a definite danger to sharks.

After inhabiting the Earth for an estimated 450 million years, sharks are being destroyed by rising consumer demand for shark meat and increasingly efficient fishing techniques that land sharks at a rate far outpacing their relatively slow ability to reproduce, scientists say. Several species — including dusky sharks, sand tiger sharks and night sharks — are candidates for the federal endangered species list.

Experts estimate shark populations have decreased as much as 90 percent in the past 15 years, according to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Millions are killed each year by commercial fishing fleets that either target them directly or catch them accidentally in nets or on lines while fishing for tuna, swordfish or other seafood. Sharks are killed off at an average of 11,000 every hour, of every day.

Shark fins also are sent to Asia — especially China — for use in soup, considered a delicacy to be eaten at weddings and other special occasions. Increased spending power by middle-class Asians has raised the demand for fins, which can sell for as much as $25 apiece.

“Sharks have survived, virtually unchanged, for millions of years. They are highly evolved, as perfectly in tune with their environment as any living thing on the planet. For them to be driven to extinction by man, a relative newcomer, would be more than an ecological tragedy; it would be a moral travesty.”
– Peter Benchley

How to help

  • Don’t buy products that contain shark cartilage, such as some medical and diet products.
  • Don’t buy shark jaws or teeth as souvenirs.
  • Don’t buy or eat shark fin soup at home or while traveling abroad. To make the soup, fishermen typically cut off the sharks’ fins and then throw the animal back to die. The practice has been outlawed in U.S. waters but continues elsewhere.
  • Let your state and federal lawmakers know that you support efforts to promote shark conservation, such as restrictions on fishing for the most vulnerable species.

In The End We Will Conserve Only What We Love
We Will Love Only What We Understand
We Will Understand Only What We Are Taught

– Baba Dioum

Our wildlife tours focus on education and conservation so that an interactive relationship can be maintained in the best interest of both humans and dolphins. We teach admiration and deep respect for these wonderful mammals.