Thursday, February 09, 2006

Some charters tours taking advantage of great white shark sightings

Dave Chadfield, who operates Chaddy's Charters, is taking groups on "shark sighting tours" around the Sugar Loaf Islands.

"We're trying to get a shark, so if you put your feet in the water, that would be helpful," he told passengers yesterday.

Numerous sightings of a 6m great white shark, known as the Taranaki Terror, have closed Taranaki beaches and created national headlines in the past few weeks.

To make matters worse, the Department of Conservation said yesterday there might actually be two great whites lurking.

Mr Chadfield, who operates his restored English lifeboat as a tourist boat, is making the most of the shark fever.

He has placed three plywood dorsal fins in the water around the Sugar Loaf Islands.

"I had people saying to me 'if I don't see a shark, do I get my money back?', so I thought I'd create one. They look real and people love it."

The most likely place to see a great white would be near the islands, he said.

"It's like a McDonald's out at the islands, with all the seals."

He said he spent 1½ hours swimming there on Saturday night.

"I had berley and bait all around me, kids fishing from my boat and I never saw one."

English couple John Alderson and Nik Ingrey are visiting family in New Plymouth and decided to take a Chaddy's Charters tour.

They said they were impressed with the realistic-looking shark fins.

"They're a good photo opportunity to fool the folks back at home with," Ms Ingrey said.

DOC programme manager Bryan Williams said people needed to be aware there were possibly two sharks still in the area.

One was reliably estimated at 6m, but one he saw last week was definitely smaller than that.
He encouraged people to contact the department if they saw a great white.

The shark had been seen near the dredge, off Port Taranaki, and he warned kayakers not to fish in the port's entrance. "They are living very dangerously if they use berley. In the murky water the dredge is creating, they wouldn't see it (the shark) coming."

Meanwhile, in the latest sighting, a New Plymouth chef thought he might actually be on the shark's menu yesterday.

Surfer Matty Bowling (23) was about 50 metres offshore at New Plymouth's Back Beach when he saw a shark fin 80 metres away.

"It was coming towards us," he said, clearly shaken by the encounter. "It was travelling at speed and I turned around and paddled for shore."

He warned about six other boardriders and they all caught the same wave in.

"I was pretty shocked. I have been writing it off, saying it's a myth – and here he came," he said.
There was also a black fin spied at Oakura about 4pm yesterday, but those who saw the creature leap out of the water were uncertain whether it was a shark or a whale.

Oakura mother of two Richelle Landers said she and her children saw a fin break the surface about 30 metres out.

"It was a big creature and pretty close," she said.

However, it was later confirmed that the black fin and leaping body belonged to an orca, one of a pod that swam off Oakura Beach yesterday afternoon.

The orcas were also seen by Kaitake Community Board members meeting in the New Plymouth Old Boys' Surf Club rooms.


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