Monday, February 11, 2002

Trapped tiger shark is
released off Maui

By Gary Kubota

WAILUKU >> Maui County ocean safety officers released a 5-foot-long tiger shark that had been entangled in netting off Kamaole Beach Park in South Maui, despite some worries by visitors about safety.

Ocean safety Acting Capt. Cary Kayama said the shark was released yesterday about 500 yards offshore and posed no hazard. But he acknowledged, "A couple of tourists asked us why we released it.

"I told them the shark was still alive and I didn't want to kill it for no reason ... The shark was probably more scared of us."

Some native Hawaiians regard sharks as their family "aumakua" or guardians.

Kayama said native Hawaii cultural specialist Charles Maxwell, a member of the State Shark Task Force, called him this morning, grateful that the shark was released.

The shark caught itself in a fisherman's net with a hook in its mouth about 100 yards offshore at about 10:30 a.m. yesterday, he said. The net was in 12 to 15 feet of water.

Because extricating the shark would have been difficult and dangerous in the ocean, Kayama said ocean safety officers Zach Edlao and Rodrigo Caba decided to bring both the net and shark ashore. The shark offered little resistance and began to thrash only after the net was cut away, Kayama said.

Some 100 people watched as ocean safety officers tried to steer the shark to the ocean, but it wouldn't move, perhaps because it was tired, he said.

The officers then put the shark on a rescue sled connected to a Jet Ski and towed it about 500 yards offshore.

Kayama said Caba drove the Jet Ski, as Edlao held the shark by its tail, and they released it at about 11 a.m.

Officials seized the net and would not give it back to the fisherman, he said.

Afterward, ocean safety officers patrolled the waters to ensure the shark did not return to the near-shore area where people were swimming.

Kayama said the ocean was never cleared of swimmers, although many came out of the water to view the shark.

He said he felt sure the ocean was safe, although shark sighting signs were posted as a precaution until sunset yesterday.

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