Sharks rumour disputed

23:02, Jan 03 2013
Sevengill shark
A sevengill shark

Suggestions are circulating among divers in Marlborough that a whale buried by the Department of Conservation near the entrance to Tory Channel has created an oil slick that is attracting sharks.

But at least one Sounds resident has ruled out the suggestions as ill-founded.

A DOC spokesman confirmed a juvenile humpback whale about six to seven metres long had been buried at Okukari Bay, on Arapawa Island, after it washed up last winter.

Humpback Whale
A humpback whale swimming near the entry to the Tory Channel, Marlborough Sounds

It had been dragged as far back from the beach as possible and buried using a bulldozer and digger.

Whekenui Bay resident Mike Radon said he believed the story was triggered after a shark stole a fish from the buoy-line attached to his wife Antonia's spear-gun. The line was used to keep blood and fish away from the diver, in case sharks came in for a meal.

"Antonia felt a yank on the line and went to investigate," Mr Radon said.

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Okukari Bay
Okukari Bay on Arapawa Island, near the entrance to Tory Channel

She looked down and saw a large shark, probably a sevengill, had her fish. She was not worried and continued fishing, he said.

He understood a commercial diver who had been bitten by a shark in the Chatham Islands heard the story and complained to DOC.

"Since then the rumours have grown," Mr Radon said.

Okukari Bay
Okukari Bay Tory Channel

There were always sharks in Tory Channel, he said. Yet, in 20 years of living at Whekenui and diving once a week off nearby Okukari Bay, where the whale was buried, there had been no shark problems. He had also not seen an oil slick in the bay.

Another commercial diver told the Express yesterday he had seen the slick in calm conditions. The oil was odourless but the slick caused the water to become super-smooth, he said. He said if the rumours about sharks were true, DOC should bury the whale on a farm or tow it out to sea.

The DOC spokesman said a staff member had checked the beach three or four months after the whale was buried when a slick had been reported but could not find any evidence of it. Water conditions at the time were choppy in the channel.

Have you seen the slick? Phone (03) 520 8935 or email penny.wardle@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

The Marlborough Express