THE STORY OF LAVERNE
Tiger sharks are blamed for most shark bites in Hawaii. Recently, a victim surfaced having been bitten by a “large” shark and was rushed to the hospital with some minor wounds. A hyped media assumed the culprit was a tiger. The identity of the animal will never be resolved, but tiger sharks shoulder the blame for such incidents because they are the largest, most intimidating near-shore animal in Hawaii. Tiger sharks have been demonized and now a growing world of people looking for recreation in the ocean is terrified of these majestic animals.
That’s where Laverne provides a different viewpoint. For years, divers in the vicinity of Honokohau Harbor have been reporting encounters with a large tiger shark. The shark has become somewhat of a local celebrity. On some days during the summer months, as many as 75% of divers in the area report a brush with a tiger shark during their dive. Fishermen enjoy her presence as well and often float at the mouth of the harbor waiting for a glimpse of the infamous animal. The description is always similar. She is about 14 feet long and has a significant chunk missing from her dorsal fin. Locals have even named the friendly behemoth "Laverne."
The idea of a fearsome man-eater-gone-soft is endearing, but it misses a bigger picture. To date, ten sharks have been photographically identified near the mouth of the harbor, many of which fit Laverne's description down to their dorsal fins. So "Laverne" is not one, but many tiger sharks intermingling with a variety of ocean users without a single adverse incident. Honokohau Harbor is a prime example of sharks and people cohabitating for a mutual benefit-symbiosis if only for the sake of curiosity.
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