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Decapitated great white shark highlights concerns at Mahia – DOC

DOC is appealing for information from the public after a protected great white shark was found decapitated on Mahia beach on Friday 15 March.

This incident comes just weeks after an attempted pygmy sperm whale refloat coincided with a shark attack on a whale, indicating an increased presence of sharks in the ocean near Mahia.

Great white sharks are present around the New Zealand coastline all year round, but most sightings are in the warmer spring and summer months when they are more prevalent due to feeding and pupping in coastal waters. It is common for great white sharks to develop preferences for certain coastal areas and to return there regularly.

Matt Tong, DOC Operations Manager Tairawhiti, says the location of the shark head is not known – prompting DOC to urge people to offer any information on its whereabouts.

“The shark’s body was discovered at the boat ramp and reported to DOC by a member of the public,” says Matt. “We believe the shark was caught on Friday morning, then brought ashore to Mahia beach where it was decapitated.”

Great white sharks are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953, meaning it is illegal to hunt, kill, or otherwise harm them, or to possess or trade in any part of the animals.

“It’s not illegal to accidentally catch a great white shark, but it must be released without causing it further harm, and it is a legal requirement to report all captures to DOC,” says Matt.

Other species of shark protected in New Zealand include the basking shark, the oceanic whitetip, the small tooth sandtiger (deepwater nurse shark), and the whale shark.

DOC expects there to be elevated numbers of sharks around the southern facing beaches of Mahia after the recent marine mammal strandings in the area. While it’s common for sharks to be found around most coastal areas around New Zealand, marine mammal strandings can lead to increased shark activity in the area, as the animals are attracted to the remains.

Matt says people should exercise caution in the area surrounding whale remains, and potentially avoid swimming, diving, and surfing as a precaution until there are no whale remains left.

“If you spot a great white, exit the water quickly and calmly, and report the sighting to DOC.”

If you have information about the incident, or want to report details of sightings, captures or strandings, email sharks@doc.govt.nz or call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Any information provided will be kept strictly anonymous.


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