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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2004

Web site offers data on Hawai'i sharks

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

The state has launched a Web site that provides facts about sharks that live in Hawai'i's waters.

Hawaiisharks.com covers the biology, history and culture of the carnivores. There are also descriptions of the sharks, pages on safety, and data on shark bite incidents.

Teachers conference

The Hawai'i Sharks Teachers Conference will be held this weekend at Coconut Island. Space is still available, but teachers must send an e-mail to sharkconf@yahoo.com by today to receive information on how to attend. More information is available at hawaiisharks.com.

"I've had to do quite a bit of searching on the Web myself over the past few years looking for specific pieces of information," said Randy Honebrink, education coordinator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources. "One of the things I noticed is there is not really very much out there on Hawaiian sharks. We get a lot of questions from the public and people intending to visit here from the Mainland. We felt if we could come up with a site that answered most of the questions we get, that would be a helpful reference for a lot of people."

Honebrink said there were 35 shark attacks in Hawai'i between 1990 and 2000 — fewer than four a year. During that time there were 220 attacks in Florida, 69 in South Africa, 50 in Brazil and 36 in Australia.

"That's why the whole point is to put everything in perspective," he said. "It's got the information people need to get an accurate picture of the shark biting side and there is an awful lot of other stuff up there as well that is worthwhile."

The site's home page has a blue-green background reminiscent of the ocean and shows a shark swimming against the current.

Honebrink said federal money paid for the $20,000 project. Teachers are encouraged to use the site, and a resources button provides information specifically for classroom use.

Local interest in shark attacks increased after 14-year-old Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm in an attack last Halloween on Kaua'i and surfer Willis "Will" McInnis, 57, was killed off Maui this month. He was Hawai'i's first confirmed shark-attack death in nearly 12 years.

Honebrink said the first thing people want is information on shark attacks. The people, dates and severity of shark attacks in Hawai'i are listed along with maps of the locations.

The site also includes a game for younger viewers in which they can become a shark helping to keep the reef clean. But Honebrink is especially proud of the cultural information included on the site, with transcripts of interviews with Hawaiian kupuna Parley Kanaka'ole and Herb Kawainui Kane talking about how sharks are often seen as 'aumakua, or personal or family gods.

"The Hawai'i Sharks Web site is a natural extension of our work in the areas of outreach and safety," said DLNR chairman Peter Young. "People have a lot of questions about sharks, and the site provides a number of answers. But it also points out how much we still have to learn about these animals."

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.