No need to fear sharks in Caroline Bay

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 12:06 28/02/2013

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Fear may have gripped many beachgoers after a fatal shark attack at an Auckland beach, but New Zealand is one of the safest places in the world when it comes to dangerous creatures, a Canterbury University marine biologist says.

Professor Bill Davison said Timaru's coastline was no different to the rest of the country, and sharks like great whites and blue sharks are all up and down the coast.

There was likely to be more sharks in Dunedin than here as the number increased the further south. Every year there were about one or two attacks but most were not serious and went unreported, he said.

Caroline Bay was not the kind of water sharks liked: they preferred clear, rough seas and were partial to seal or penguin colonies where hundreds were entering the water at a time.

''A shark doesn't want to waste it's time hoping a penguin will come by.''

Six and seven gillsharks are caught locally, and are common in Lyttelton Harbour, but are not ''maneaters''.

Prof Davison said there had been reports of sixgill sharks biting but not severely, usually occurring when they were in cloudy water and someone bumped into them.

Bluebottle jellyfish which drifted into Caroline Bay seasonally were more of a concern as they sting. Compared to Australia, New Zealand was worry free, Prof Davison said.

''In Australia on the land everything wants to sting and bite you. In the sea you have box jellyfish that will kill you and blue ring octopus. New Zealand has got to be one of the safest places in the world when it comes to organisms out to get you.''

His advice to people in Timaru and the rest of the country is to go and enjoy the sunshine and water because it is more dangerous crossing the road.

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- The Timaru Herald

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