Saturday, February 04, 2006

Tagging failed but presence of great white shark noted near coastline

Marine scientist Clinton Duffy and former New Plymouth marine biologist Demian Chapman attempted to tag the terror of the deep with pop-off satellite tags to monitor its movements.
It would have enabled them to learn more about the species.

But their five-hour mission, which finished at 10pm, failed to lure the shark with berley.
However, during the mission Mr Duffy did see a great white at least 4m long dive out of the water near Seal Rock, off Port Taranaki.

It is the latest of several sightings in the past month, of the shark dubbed the Taranaki Terror.
"We stopped for the sunset and as we were watching I saw a huge white shark almost breach, it almost jumped completely clear of the water off Seal Rock," Mr Duffy said.

"We went back and three fur seals just nailed it out of there.

"At this time of the day (8.30), just as it gets dark the seals come down.

"It looked as if the shark had been patrolling the rock in quite deep water," he said.

Berley tuna, used for snapper fishing, was put on the water surface to attract the shark to the boat but it never reappeared.

However, Mr Duffy cautioned kayakers and divers about going near the Sugar Loaf Islands.
He said they should avoid the area unless it was absolutely necessary to go there.

Sharks hunted prey from the ocean floor, looking up at objects floating on the surface.

A diver, kayaker or surfer could be mistaken for a floating seal, whale or dolphin, he said.

Swimmers should also take care not to wander past the surf line.

He said the warning was not intended to scare people.

"It is sensible," he said.

"I think we can be pretty sure the shark is hunting seals around the island. There's no guarantee it's the only one out there, but there is at least one."

"It's possible there's always been one or more sharks moving up and down the coast . . . that's what we would like to find out by attaching these tags."

This morning, he and Mr Chapman were heading out to sea to again try to tag the shark.
Mr Chapman, a research assistant at Peu Institute in Miami, donated three satellite tags, worth $5200 each, to tag white sharks in New Zealand waters.

The tags are placed below the dorsal fin, using a pole and thin needle, and after nine months are released to the water surface, transmitting data to a satellite which downloads the information to the scientist.

Last weekend one of the tags was used on a 2.2m great white at Manukau Harbour – the first of any shark species satellite-tagged in New Zealand waters.


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