Shark closes South Maui beaches

No one was injured as aggressive predator made off with fishermen’s catch

A lifeguard patrols Big Beach in Makena looking for signs of sharks Thursday afternoon. • The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

MAKENA — A 7-foot Galapagos shark “aggressively” snatched a small catch of fish from two local fishermen’s dive float while they were diving Thursday afternoon off of Makena, a fire official said.

The two men were spearfishing about 20 yards out from the rocky point between Big Beach and Little Beach, Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said. After their encounter with the shark, the men swam to shore and notified lifeguards around noon.

Lifeguards immediately cleared the waters and closed the two beaches from 12:10 to 2:10 p.m. State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials also responded to the scene.

No injuries were reported.

The vast majority of beachgoers headed to their cars after the shark sighting, with some saying they did not want to risk going back into the water. Visitors said they shouted at the small crowd of swimmers to get out of the water with some putting a hand on their forehead to signify a shark fin.

Big Beach and Little Beach closed temporarily Thursday after a 7-foot Galapagos shark snatched fish from two fishermen’s dive float. • The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

“We didn’t see anything. We just heard, ‘Get out of the water,’ “ Brett Begley of San Diego said. “The guy next to us said he saw the shark thrashing right where we were.”

Begley said she had been snorkeling with her younger sister, Erin, about 30 or 40 yards away from the spearfishermen before swimming to shore. She said lifeguards saw the fin of the shark come up a couple times out of the water.

“We’ve done scuba dives so all I thought was, ‘Oh maybe it’s a reef shark or a blacktip or something hanging on the reef, nothing aggressive,’ “ she said. “But then the guy was like it was thrashing and it was looking for food.”

Begley said local beachgoers and lifeguards thought it may have been a shark that was in the area last month. She said her family regularly visits Maui, but has never had to clear the ocean because of a shark.

“This is our favorite beach, and every single time we’ve come we’ve never had a shark sighting,” she said.

State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials talk to beachgoers Thursday afternoon after a shark sighting closed Big Beach in Makena. • The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

The last shark attack in Maui County occurred Nov. 14, 2016, when Barbara Zawacki, 58, of Kihei suffered multiple lacerations to her right leg while about 30 yards from shore at Kamaole Beach Park I.

Historically, shark bites are more common in October. Between 1980 and 2015, there have been 122 unprovoked shark attacks in Hawaiian waters with 26, or 21 percent of them, occurring in the month of October, DLNR data shows.

For more information, go to the division’s shark website at

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at