Just when you thought it was sage to get back in the water ... wait. Nope. Sorry. It's going to take a lot more than a rash of shark attacks to stop people from going to Hawaii.
Over the last couple years there has been an increase in shark attacks in Hawaii— 14 in 2013, eight off the coast of Maui, The Los Angeles Times's Maeve Reston reports. And so far, there aren't any solid answers why. Some say there may be something to do with the recovery of the sea turtle population or the Japanese tsunami, but there's no real science to back those theories up. Carl Meyer, a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii, told Reston that one of the more solid theories is the increase of people in the water splashing around. Reston writes:
One known fact, Meyer said, is that there are more kayak fisherman, kite surfers and paddle boarders than a few decades ago — and the study will look at whether tiger sharks are more prevalent in areas of Maui where those sports are most popular.
The worry isn't only for the safety of humans. Local businesses, particularly those that are involved with kite surfing and paddle boarding and getting in the water, are worried that people might stop visiting Hawaii, causing them to lose their livelihoods. Reston explains that there's no sign of that happening yet, with 2.1 million visiting Maui last year— one of the strongest years since before the recession. "I think people realize it is still a rare occurrence," a spokesperson for Maui's Visitors Bureau told Reston.
How rare? The chances of getting bit by a shark are 1 in 11.5 million, according to research from the University of Florida. And, depending on which research you ask, getting killed by a shark is even slimmer. So, if say, you wanted to visit Hawaii or got a free trip and were pondering whether or not to take one because of the sharks attack, let's just say that you run a greater risk of getting killed in a plane crash to the islands (less than one in a million) than getting bit by a shark or ... getting killed in car accident in your hometown after passing up on the trip because of the sharks.
And it's not like Hawaii is sitting idly while (a fraction of) its tourists are getting bit. Officials have commissioned a two-year $186,000 study to figure out the behavior of tiger sharks and tourists. And the University of Hawaii has a cool Hawaii tiger shark-tracking website which allows you to see where tagged sharks are going (not in real-time). Obviously the next step is a sharks-on-Twitter warning system like they have in Australia.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.