Sharks leave, beaches open
Two Big Isle beaches were
closed Saturday after a shark
attack and shark sightings
By Leila Fujimori
State officials reopened two Big Island beaches this morning that were closed because of shark sightings and a Saturday shark attack.
Kahaluu Beach and Magic Sands Beach in West Hawaii were reopened at 9:20 a.m., after officials conducted a helicopter fly-over about 7:30 a.m. and found no sharks in the area, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The beaches were closed yesterday after two large sharks were spotted near the site of a Saturday shark attack.
A 10-foot shark was spotted yesterday morning outside the Kahaluu breakwater by a Department of Land & Natural Resources task force member from a Fire Department helicopter, Ward said. The type of shark could not be determined.
"At 1:30 p.m. yesterday a 12-footer was spotted by several boats one mile seaward of Kahaluu Beach Park," said Charles Nahale, with the DLNR in Kona.
Ward said it was believed to be a tiger shark.
Signs warning of sharks were posted all day at the closed beaches.
There were no sharks spotted during a helicopter check at 4 p.m.
Koa Paulo, of Kamuela, was swimming in about eight feet of water not far from shore between the two beaches when he was bitten on the foot.
The shark held the 20-year-old by the leg for about five seconds as he tried to swim away, then suddenly let go. No bones were broken, but the wound required surgery and doctors placed his foot in a cast.
Paulo believes it was a reef shark that attacked him. He described it as dark gray with a "real round face." Friends on the shoreline said it was 6 to 7 feet long.
But shark experts believe it was probably a tiger shark since they have square heads vs. the pointed heads of most reef sharks.
"The only real round-nosed shark is a tiger," said Kim Holland, of the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology, but he added that black-tipped reef sharks have moderately round noses.
Most reef sharks are between 6 and 7 feet.
Tiger sharks, generally larger, are most often implicated in shark attacks in Hawaii. Great whites have also been known to attack.
"It's just very strange that a reef shark would attack," said John Naughton, marine biologist with U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
"We don't know what causes the shark to make the very rare mistake of attacking a human," Holland said yesterday. "It's exactly what may have happened yesterday is that they take one bite or one taste and then they don't want any more because they've not eaten what they thought they were going to be eating."