Saturday, January 28, 2006

Swimmers warned of presence of great white shark

Fresh sightings of a monster great white shark close to North Taranaki's shoreline have prompted a warning to swimmers.

The Conservation Department warning comes after two more close encounters with the shark, estimated to be six metres long.

Fishermen on a charter boat got the fright of their lives when the great white swam directly under them last Friday. And two competitors in a yacht race off Port Taranaki watched in horror as the shark – its fin clearly out of the water – swam between their much smaller craft.

These sightings follow numerous incidents involving a very big shark earlier this summer.

DOC programme manager Bryan Williams said yesterday the latest sightings confirmed there was at least one very large great white patrolling off North Taranaki. "It's obviously on the move up and down the coast. This makes sense, because our fur seal population has just finishing pupping, and no doubt the great white has scoffed quite a few of them.

"We strongly recommend that swimmers at such places as Fitzroy Beach remain aware that there is a very large shark off the shore."

The presence of the shark has prompted DOC to postpone a two-week fish survey programme by divers.

Mr Williams said the operator of the fishing charter boat told DOC he was fishing in 30 metres of water less than a kilometre off the Bell Block coast when a giant shark swam directly under his boat.

"He had time to take a very good look at the shark. His boat is seven metres long, and he was able to use that to estimate the size of the shark as up to six metres. He estimated its width to be well over one metre, and its dorsal fin was at least 500 millimetres high."

The biggest great white on record measured seven metres and weighed 3200 kilograms.

Mr Williams appealed to locals not to try to catch the shark.

"It's obviously a massive fish, which is quite rare. Great whites are totally protected in Australia, and there are moves afoot to protect them in New Zealand. So we strongly recommend it be left alone."


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