Sharks!!! Don’t Let “Jaws” Scare You
Next time you freak out about a shark attack sensationalized in the media, don’t panic. You’re way more likely to be “scared to death” than to be eaten by a shark. Fact is, heart failure is still the leading cause of death in the U.S. by far — 652,486 deaths in 2004. There were just 2 shark-related deaths in the U.S.that same year, only one in 2005, and none in 2006. So lay off the butter, and dive in!
According to the International Shark Attack File, between 1580 and 2004 there were only 1,969 confirmed shark attacks worldwide. In the U.S. during this period, there were 761 confirmed shark attacks, with 39 deaths. Hawaii accounted for 100 of these attacks during almost 500 years, resulting in 15 deaths. So how does this compare to other types of accidental deaths?
Shark Attack Comparisons
- In the U.S., your chances of dying from a lightning strike are 30 times greater than dying of a shark attack.
- Bees, wasps, and snakes kill more people each year than sharks.
- During the 1990s, vehicular collisions with deer were responsible for 30 deaths per year in the U.S.
- During the 1990s, dogs were responsible for 18 deaths per year in the U.S.
- During the 1990s, snakes were responsible for 15 deaths per year in the U.S.
- During the 1990s, mountain lions were responsible for 0.6 deaths per year in the U.S.
- During the 1990s, sharks were responsible for 0.4 deaths per year in the U.S.
- Worldwide, 4 shark deaths were reported in 2003, 3 in 2002 and 5 in 2001.
Hawaii Shark Tours
Seeing sharks up close and personal while immersed in a metal cage is the most thrilling adventure in Hawaii — and if you try it, probably of your life, too! This world-famous experience, offered by North Shore Shark Adventures, on Oahu, is available nowhere else in Hawaii.
Watching Gray Reef, Galapagos, Sandbar and Hammerhead sharks swim within a few feet of you is a primal adventure, an unbelievable experience you’ll not likely forget, and one that will profoundly affect your feelings toward sharks.
Some people who take this shark tour have never been in the ocean before. Many come with a phobia about sharks. After the tour their inhibitions and fears disappear and they have a greater respect for sharks and their beauty.
Sharks, nature’s most perfect predator (excluding humans), have existed on the planet for over 350 million years – since before even the dinosaurs. In Hawaiian legend, each island has its own shark god. The king shark god of Oahu is Kamohoalii, elder brother of the fire goddess Pele. Also known as Moho, is, the provider of the canoe which brought Pele to Hawaii from Tahiti. His lair is said to be an underwater cave off of Pearl Harbor.
The ancient Hawaiians hunted sharks for meat, teeth and skin. Heiaus, or temples, were built in honor of the shark gods. Just as each island has its own shark god, many Hawaiian families had personal shark aumakuas, or guardian spirits.
North Shore Shark Adventures was developed by lifelong surfer and diver Joe Pavsek at the suggestion of his friends. In his other life, Joe is a private investigator and artist displaying his works Honolulu and Lake Tahoe galleries. He’s had a diving boat in Haleiwa Harbor since 1975 and has worked on aircraft salvage recovery in Hawaiian waters. Joe has been featured many times on the television show “Let’s Go Fishing.”
These shark tours leave Haleiwa Harbor starting at 7:00 am daily and last two hours. Using a 26-foot Anderson boat with a swim step at the stern, you’ll sail to a location about 2 miles offshore. Since safety of the passengers is a primary concern, each tour begins with an informative safety briefing. People may bring their own mask and snorkel — fins are not necessary. The sharks you’ll see often inches away from your cage, range in size from five to fifteen feet.
People from around the world, including England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and from almost every state in the mainland have enjoyed the tour. North Shore Shark Adventures has been featured on the BBC Outdoors in England, ESPN Outdoors and soon will be on Canadian Wildlife Television.
North Shore Shark Adventures operates out of the harbor in historic Haleiwa Town, about an hour’s drive from Waikiki. This adventure can be purchased with or without round-trip transportation — hotel pickup from all major Waikiki hotels.
Hawaii Shark Tours Threatened
An advisory panel that oversees fishing in federal waters around Hawaii recently napproved a proposal that would ban shark feeding by commercial tour operators. This occurred after Federal officials met with community members on the North Shore of Oahu in 2006 to discuss the possibility of limiting local shark tours in Hawaii.
The recommendation by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council would prohibit feeding or chumming for sharks in federal waters around the Hawaiian Islands. The measure, which would ban shark feeding but not the tour operations, has yet to be approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The state of Hawaii previously passed a similar law banning commercial operations from feeding sharks in state waters, which extend 3 miles from shore. The law does not prohibit shark-viewing activities that do not involve feeding the fish. The federal proposal would extend the prohibition to federal waters 200 miles beyond the 3-mile state limit.
Supporters of the federal measure say the ban is necessary because of the large number of sharks they say two North Shore tours are attracting. Since passage of the state measure, North Shore Shark Adventures and Hawaii Shark Encounters now boat customers 3 miles offshore from Haleiwa to view sharks up close and personal from a submerged cage.
The owners of the two tour operations say they don’t always use bait to attract the sharks because they are already in the area. “We don’t always feed. We don’t have to,” says Joe Pavsek, who started North Shore Shark Adventures 6 years ago.
He anchors his two boats near where crabbers fish. “It’s crabbers, not tour operators who attract the sharks,” he says. If this ban were to take effect, it probably won’t hurt his business because the crabbers will still be in the area, he adds.
Pavsek also maintains that the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has no jurisdiction over shark tours. The council is the policy-making body for commercial “fishing activity,” which both tour operators agree does not include their tour operations.
Paul Dalzell, the council’s senior scientist, acknowledged that it’s questionable whether the council has a say in the tours’ activities. An attorney for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) general counsel’s office said that shark-viewing was not a fishing activity and therefore probably did not fall under the council’s jurisdiction.
Now that the matter is in legal hands, it’s difficult to know just how it will be resolved or how shark tour operations in Hawaii will be affected. It could become difficult to tell the sharks from the sharks. Federal scrutiny of shark tours is likely to continue and perhaps increase, so best book soon if you want to be certain of experiencing this rare and exciting adventure.