Shark caught on camera in Hawaii waters – mako or white shark?

WARNING: Video features language that some may find offensive.

YouTube user kairokk posted a video featuring footage shot off Hawaii’s Kaena Point on January 12, 2012. The video shows a large shark circling a fishing boat and features some colorful commentary by the videographer. The shark in question is identified in the video title and throughout the video by the men on the boat as a great white shark, but a quick glance at the YouTube comments shows that there are others who are identifying it as a mako.

From the 2:08 mark until about the 2:15 mark gives about the best close-up view of the shark. So, to all the shark experts out there, is this a mako or a white shark? (My non-expert self is voting mako.)

The video above is the second in a series of footage of the shark, if you didn’t get enough from the clip above, check out the other clip.


  1. Jbund says:

    Looks like a mako to me. On the dualtone markings of a GW the grey comes lower than the eye. On a mako usually (not always) the eye sits in the white portion. Just an observation.

  2. Dave says:

    I say it looks more like a mako, and more like 8-9 ft. That is not a big boat and it dwarfs the shark. Very pointed dorsal also says mako as well as the color pattern metioned by jbund.

  3. Annafish says:

    Ok, first of all. The shark spy-hops in the video- the fishermen even say that the shark looks at them. This is only a characteristic of Great White sharks. That being said, the eye of the shark is way above any “dualtone” marking in the grey- if there is a validation to the comment about the eye in a mako even being in the white part of their coloration which i haven’t seen that there is. The eye is also not as large as a mako eye usually appears to be. Also, the dorsal fin is pointy. yes. but a shortfin mako dorsal isn’t particularly pointed, nor is it that long. Its alot stubbier than what the one in the video looks like. If you also look at the sharks mouth, it lacks the very characteristic mako teeth on the bottom row. I also don’t remember hearing about makos circling boats for food or otherwise (could be mistaken here), whereas the behavior is well known and documented as far as great white sharks go. Lastly, that boat has got to be at least a 25 foot boat, the marlin itself is probably at least 8 feet. There are two engines on teh boat as well- why would you have two outboards on a tiny boat. And the boat, by no means “dwarfs” the shark. I would say that their guesstimation of 12-14 feet on the sharks length was probably pretty decent, and mako sharks don’t get much larger than that… so that was either a close to record breaking length mako, or a smaller still maturing great white. Besides. Even if makos do love billfishes, most sharks love blood and are attracted by the sound of thrashing and dying animals. If you listen to the video too, one of hte guys asks the other about it being a mako and the other tells him no and gives some reasons. Would be nice to hear his perspective on it but unfortunately the video isnt loud enough. My vote definitely goes with a small Great White Shark.

    • DeepAddiction47 says:

      For Annafish, in answer to your question why have two motors; it’s much safer for offshore boating to have a twin rig set up. If one motor fails you still have the other to limp home with, the likelihood of two motors failing is unlikely. So it essentially comes down to a safety thing and not so much a bragging rights thing. As for the shark, I initially thought it was actually a Longfin Mako, but after watching a few times I agree it’s most likely a sub-adult Great White.

    • nate says:

      2:10 white skin-tone is above the eye, and follows the contour of the sharks head very cleanly in a sharp line down the nose. great whites do not have this feature, every pic of great white the eye is in a dark grey skin-tone. Look at pictures of great white eyes and face then look at makos and you will see the difference. Also if you freeze it on the right frame in 2:10 you see the the shark has a mako snout and big eye with the visible white part, these are also features that a great white does not have. 100% Mako. Booya.

  4. CaptObvious says:

    First off, it’s about an 8 foot Shortfin Mako, and that is a tiny (12-15′?) boat even though it has two outboards. Look at the billfish tail on the bow for scale, which are around 3′ across (which is why the mako “spyhopped” (whale terminology, not shark) right where the fish tail was) maybe it dripped some blood or fishy water there…hmmm. The eye is BELOW the “dualtone” marking and not above. It even swims with the characteristic mannerisms of a Mako, a little jittery like its on full blast. The coloration is completely wrong for a white shark and an older Mako develops broader teeth for attacking bigger critters like billfish and even dolphins. Sounds a little fishy to me.

    • TheDorsalFin says:

      White sharks are known to “spyhop,” so it’s not exclusive to cetaceans. That being said, in this video, I didn’t notice the shark spyhopping (at least, as I understand the behavior) at any point. It does appear to be looking out of the water when it swims close to the surface, but it was my understanding that spyhopping involves lifting the head from the water to look around, which I didn’t see happen in this video. My apologies if my understanding of the term is incorrect (which it may very well be).

  5. Dave says:

    @Annafish: I must have missed the spyhop, the video is not playing on my machine currently, at what minute mark was this spyhop? Also, out here in Hawaii, it is common, and smart to have dual outboards or outdrives. If one engine fails, you are not drifting toward Tahiti. And why does the boat have to be “at least 25ft”? 20 and 22 footers are very common here and if you look at the very narrow beam, and crowded boat, it looks like a smaller boat. Even if it was 25, that shark is less than half its length. One of the largest makos ever caught was landed in Hawaii a couple decades ago. They are not real common here but when they are seen, we see some big ones. I personally WISH it were a white because the sightings are so rare, but unfortunately it is pretty clearly a mako. This shark is more animated than white sharks I have seen (and way smaller). In Guadalupe recently the largest whites we saw were 13 and 14 ft and they looked like subs but moved much more calmly. Makos are known to be more hyper. This shark looks about as big as some of the oceanic whitetips we get out here, around 8-9 ft max. Like I said, wish it were a white but to be convinced I think it would have to first look like one at least, and it doesn’t.

  6. TheDorsalFin says:

    My opinion on why I think it’s a mako is based largely on the frames where the shark passes by the stern of the boat near the surface (around 2:10 in). Based on the snout, coloration, and jaws, it looks like a mako to me.

    Without a polarizing filter, the reflections off the surface of the water do make it a little more difficult to pick-out tell-tale identifying characteristics, but from what I can see, I’m inclined to think that it’s a mako.

  7. Dave says:

    OK, Not trying to beat a dead horse but here are some comparison shots which include screen grabs from this video, images of makos from the web (because I have never photographed them…..yet) and some of my own great white shots.

    The first image shows screen grabs from this video of the dorsal fin and a larger shot of a mako taken underwater (no credit was attributed to the photographer on the site).

    The next link is a collection of great white shark dorsal fins for comparison.

    The last link is a comparison of a mako shark head, a screen grab of the shark from this video, and a great white shark head. Note the counter-shading, how it is nearly if not identical to the mako, but not much like the great white at all. Also the jaw line of makos curves in, then expands out forming a gullet (slightly ‘S’ shaped curve to the profile), while great whites keep a natural, unwavering curve (not recurving) jawline:

  8. drudown says:

    From my perspective it is clearly a Longfin Mako because (1) the exposed dorsal fin seen is pointier than a White shark’s; (2) with White sharks, if the dorsal fin is exposed (as in the video seen here), the tail would likewise be exposed; (3) the pectoral fins seen are narrower than a White shark’s; (4) while both White sharks and Makos have conical snouts, the Mako’s nose is pointier; and, most importantly, (5) if you watch the video again and compare it to video footage of Mako sharks, you can tell it is a Mako by the distinctive “sidewinder”-type gait of the Mako as it swims slowly. White sharks seem to glide.

  9. Mike says:

    Spyhop? no..its a Mako…it did roll and check the crew out..spyhop no. No serrated edges on the trailing edge of the dorsal fin…even juvenile whites have that..
    Amazing video though..these guys saw an amazing piece of nature that

  10. Joe I says:

    This is Isurus oxyrinchus/Shortfin Mako. As Dorasl Fin pointed out moving to circa 2:10-2:15 on the video will provide ample evidence of the shark’s species by viewing both the coloration, eye shape and position in addition to the shape of the shark’s mouth (with teeth slightly visible)

    The Great White does in fact “spy hop” which is the correct application of a term that is not wholly owned by cetaceans (usually applied to the Orca)as a variety of species of shark do this as well.

    However there is no evidence on this video of this shark spy hopping nor would that behavior change the fact that this is in fact a Shortfin Mako.

  11. Jack Schidt says:

    Mako face! When the mouth is closed, the eye of a White Shark is forward of the leading edge of the lower jaw. On a Mako, the eye is just behind the leading edge of the lower jaw. But wow, cool fish, and so big these experienced fishermen think its a Great White!
    But this fish is no joke. When it makes eye contact, its as if she is saying, “I am way faster than this boat, and I could come up there and make everyone one of you bleed.” Better be well prepared before hooking up with a female like this, she might make you regret it.

  12. Ryan says:

    It is a Mako…Greatwhites pectoral fins are larger in proportion as well as being a completly diff. color patern. Also if you nitice the head and snout area on this shark, it comes to more of a point, where Greatwhites are a bit broader. Makos have a body shape more like a missle which gives them there ability to have massive bursts of speed.

  13. Ciaran says:

    One of the lads should have taken one for the team and jumped in.By measuring the bite marks,we could then identify the type of shark.Personally I think its a Mako,and a huge one at that.They got to see something great that day

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