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October 1998 Vol. 24, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Seeking Revenge on Tiger Sharks

from the October, 1998 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

When someone gets killed by a shark in Hawaii, the response has been to seek revenge. In the early 1990s tiger sharks killed three surfers and a snorkeler off Maui. Freelance fishermen sought out and caught as many as 30 tiger sharks. That's nothing compared to what happened in 1959, when after a single death a state culling program took 697 sharks. Between 1967 and 1969, a University of Hawaii research effort took 1,727 more sharks.

The idea, of course, was to knock out the guilty shark, no matter how many innocent critters went with it. But some of the more sane scientists weren't so sure that the guilty shark would hang around looking for more victims. So federal and state agencies funded Kim Holland, an associate researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, to track 140 tiger sharks.

Holland found that it's not unusual for tiger sharks to move thirty to forty miles in twenty-four hours. And, though they occasionally revisited monitoring sites, they did so irregularly.

The conclusion: if tiger sharks don't exhibit fidelity to an area, but rather hunt far and wide, it is useless to kill the sharks in the vicinity of an attack to solve the problem.

-- Michael Tennesen, Wildlife Conservation

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