Study: White sharks in Hawaiian waters migrate from eastern Pacific

April 19, 2013 at 6:57 PM
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HONOLULU, April 19 (UPI) -- White sharks sometimes seen in waters around the Hawaiian Islands have come from as far as the Pacific coasts of California and Mexico, researchers said.

The sharks are seen only rarely near Hawaii because a relatively small proportion of their population make the long migration, scientists at the University of Hawaii and the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources said, citing previous studies.

A new study has analyzed all available information on white sharks in Hawaiian waters -- including newspaper accounts of shark attacks, shark control program catch records, photos and videos from various sources, and satellite tracking data -- a University of Hawaii release said Friday.

Scientists say a great deal is known about the migratory patterns of white sharks in the eastern Pacific since the advent of satellite tracking but important questions remain.

"We learned that white sharks occur in Hawaii across a broader part of the annual cycle than previously thought -- we recorded observations from every month except November," university researcher Kevin Weng said. "This is important for our understanding of white shark life history and population.

"Male and female white sharks have different migration patterns," he said. "Males have been recorded in Hawaii from December through June, but females have been observed here all year round."

Since all records of white sharks in Hawaiian waters are of individuals larger than 10.8 feet, and no juveniles have ever been reported, there is no evidence of white sharks being residents or giving birth to their young in Hawaiian waters, researchers said.

"This study is valuable in that it provides a better understanding of the biology and behavior of white sharks, which is very useful for management purposes," William Aila of the Department of Land and Natural Resources said. "White sharks were caught by pre-contact Hawaiians, and their teeth used in weapons and other implements. But in many ways they continue to mystify us today."

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