COURTESY OF KOSTA STAMOULIS / NOAA
Several Big Isle beaches were closed Monday as 25 tiger sharks attacked a humpback whale. Sharks feeding on an injured animal "is part of the natural processes of the ocean," said an official with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. (Taken under NOAA/NMFS permit.) CLICK FOR LARGE
Tiger sharks maul injured whale
Feeding frenzy attracts risky response by witnesses
At least 25 tiger sharks ate a young humpback whale alive Monday off the Big Island's Kailua-Kona Coast, an eyewitness reported yesterday.
But wildlife managers say they are more worried about the behavior of some people -- who leaped into the ocean from boats while the feeding frenzy was happening.
Sharks feeding on an injured animal "is part of the natural processes of the ocean," said Justin Viezbicke, a marine conservation coordinator for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
The ailing whale was harassed and bitten throughout Monday morning and afternoon by at least 25 tiger sharks, he said.
COURTESY KOSTA STAMOULIS / NOAA
A humpback whale is attacked by sharks in this handout photo -- part of a natural process, wildlife managers say. (Taken under NOAA/NMFS permit.) CLICK FOR LARGE
Viezbicke went to check on the whale after the sanctuary received a report Monday morning that it was being followed by sharks, he said.
By the time the whale died off Lyman's Point at about 4 p.m., it had been badly mauled by the sharks, and Hawaii County officials had closed several nearby beaches, Viezbicke said.
"There were people that were definitely not obeying the 100-yard rule," Viezbicke said.
The sanctuary plans to open an investigation against the violators, said Jeff Walters, sanctuary co-manager.
The marine conservation professionals with Viezbicke took photos of the sharks and whale while remaining aboard their vessel and lowering a camera underwater, he said.
After the whale died, the DLNR boat was assisted by a commercial boat in towing the whale carcass three miles offshore and tie it to a fishing buoy. Nothing remained of the carcass yesterday.