Scott Brenton hoped to get his hands on a few tarakihi when he went fishing off Wellington's south coast, but what he ended up grasping was a 7-foot shark.
Mr Brenton and fellow fisherman Andrew Harding encountered the blue shark - once rated by Discovery Channel as one of the 10 deadliest sharks in the world - about 500 metres offshore in Fitzroy Bay on Friday.
But this particular shark was not hunting for humans. It was more interested in its own kind, gobbling up the dogfish sharks the pair were reeling in, Mr Brenton said.
It was actually docile enough that Mr Brenton was able to hand feed it.
"You could tell by its movements that it wasn't an aggressive shark. I was feeding it fish but it wasn't attacking them, it just slowly grabbed hold of them and took them away," he said.
"I would've been quite comfortable jumping in the water with it, if I'd had my dive gear with me.
"You could tell it wasn't in attack mode."
Mr Brenton said the shark quite happily let him grab its dorsal fin and stroke it on the head as it was trying to eat fish off the back of his boat. "It was just amazing. I wish I had taken my daughter out fishing that morning because she would've loved it."
Mr Brenton and Mr Harding have been fishing in the waters around Wellington for 25 years and this was the first time either had seen a blue shark in the area.
Mr Harding said the shark was quite playful. "It was more like a dolphin . . . Scott actually put a fish on a piece of string at the back of his boat and it was grabbing it and thrashing around."
The shark also spent a fair bit of time chewing on the boat propeller, although not to the point where he was in any danger, Mr Harding said.
"It was great, so exciting to see.
"They're just beautiful animals in the water. They're so graceful and slow and not aggressive at all. They're fantastic things to watch," Mr Harding said.
"It was just a bit of a pain because I ended up spending more time watching the shark than I did catching tarakihi."
Niwa principal scientist Malcolm Francis, who specialises in sharks, said blue sharks were common but rarely seen in New Zealand waters, as it was rare for them to venture close to shore.
"They've been known to attack people but it doesn't happen very often. They're quite inquisitive and fairly persistent, so if there's food on offer then they will check it out."
A story on Stuff.co.nz a week ago showed a similar scenario with a blue shark eating a school shark in a photo apparently taken off Kaiteriteri Beach near Nelson.
- The Dominion Post
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