Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fisherman sought
in Maui shark sightings

Beaches remain shut after akule
left by a boat attracts sharks

State marine conservation enforcement officials are trying to track down a fishing boat operator who may have dumped more than 100 dead akule in or near Maui's Honolua Bay, attracting tiger sharks into near-shore waters since Wednesday.

Tiger shark 'bumps'
man on Maui

A Maui man had a close encounter with a tiger shark yesterday in waters off Kamaole Beach Park.

Randy Awo, branch chief for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' enforcement division, said the shark apparently "bumped" the man.

He was not injured. The time of the incident was not available, but Awo said it happened about mid-morning.

Lifeguards closed the beach until late afternoon, when it was re-opened. Warning signs were posted.

Awo said the incident occurred several miles from Honolua Bay and was not related to shark sightings since Wednesday in that area.

Star-Bulletin staff

A mile-long stretch of coastal water, from Slaughterhouse to Honolua, remained closed yesterday as sharks as big as 12 feet could still be seen searching for fish.

Warning signs were also posted for a fourth day at nearby D.T. Fleming Beach Park. Beachgoers at Fleming were advised to check with lifeguards before going in the water.

"The sharks, even with our boats on the water, are not deterred from coming into the bay," said Randy Awo, branch chief for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' enforcement division. "They are looking for food. They know it's there."

Awo declined to identify the man whom officials are looking for in connection with the case, but did say that the boat operator has a current commercial fishing license.

He also said "several sources" told enforcement officers that the man was fishing near Honolua Bay early Wednesday. No witnesses have come forward to confirm the story.

Officers started trying to contact the man Thursday and by last night still had not been able to reach him. Awo said tracking the man down has proven difficult.

DLNR officials went to several houses Friday and yesterday where the man is known to frequent, Awo said, but got no solid leads on his whereabouts.

Awo also said it's still unclear what happened in this case or whether the fishing was done inside the state marine conservation district at Honolua Bay, because by the time enforcement officers arrived the akule were drifting along the shoreline.

Commercial fishing for akule is not allowed in the bay's conservation district.

"We suspect it (the fish kill) is the result of someone surrounding a school and something went wrong," Awo said.

When commercial fishermen catch akule, they sometimes use nets that gather the fish in a ball -- a process that kills some of the fish that escape.

Also, net fishing sometimes means a boat operator catches more akule -- perhaps in a school -- than can fit in a boat. Those fish that can't be taken are unloaded into the water.

Breaking the rules of the conservation district could result in fines and citations. Awo said most akule fishermen abide by the rules.

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