Shark spotted near popular beach

00:08, Dec 21 2011

People have been cautioned to stay clear of part of Papamoa beach after a two-metre-long shark was spotted.

This morning's sighting came just days after a shark damaged a piece of sonar equipment being used to look for containers from the cargo ship Rena, grounded off the Tauranga coast.

Police said the shark spotted today was seen about 10am to the east of Papamoa beach by the boat ramp. It came within 10 metres of the shoreline.

Up to 20 people were line fishing in the area at the time, but had since moved away.

People were cautioned to stay away from the area for now, police said.

Department of Conservation shark expert Clinton Duffy said the shark was likely to be a bronze whaler.


They were among the types of sharks that moved into shallower waters around October and November to breed.

As the weather warmed more people were at the beach to see them.

It was quite possible that sharks would be nearby when people were swimming, Duffy said.

He had heard reports of bronze whalers swimming around swimmers, without the people in the water realising it.

Generally, the people were not in any danger.

During the past 10 to 15 years in New Zealand there were about two reports of shark bites annually, though most were minor

Most of the sharks commonly seen near beaches were fish eaters, and did not normally mistake people for their normal prey.

Little research had been done on sharks in New Zealand and almost none on bronze whalers inshore at this time of year.

"We don't really know what sharks are doing hanging around these beaches. They may not be there to feed," Duffy said.

On the weekend an unidentified shark attacked sonar equipment being used to look for containers that fell off the Rena. The torpedo-shaped piece of equipment was being towed behind a boat at the time.

Duffy said that to a mako shark the equipment would have looked like a big shiny fish.

Mako sharks were aggressive open ocean predators that regularly had a go at things being towed around, but they preferred clear blue oceanic waters and it was  unusual to see them close to shore.

Mako came south with marlin and tuna every year and many were being reported offshore from the Bay of Plenty.