Creatures lurking in Bay waters

By Morgan Tait


Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy is regarded as New Zealand's "shark man".


He worked in Hawke's Bay waters for seven years and said he has seen some of the biggest creatures in our patch.

"The sharks you are most likely to see in the Bay at this time of year are blue sharks and mako sharks. They would be the main two but sometimes there could be large hammerheads and bronze whalers coming along the coast.

"Very occasionally you might get a great white shark around. They all tend to move south this time of year when the water warms up," Mr Duffy said.

Mako sharks in Hawke's Bay were some of the biggest in the world, reaching lengths of up to 3.7m long and 415kg. Blue sharks in Hawke's Bay get up to 3.3m and weigh about 110kg, bronze whalers were the same lengths but weighed between 180kg and 280kg.


 


Hammerheads here weighed around 100kg to 120kg and were about 2.8m to 3m long, Mr Duffy said.

When great whites had made appearances they ranged from young ones at 1.5m to 1.8m, with full grown sharks up to 4m.

"The thing about great whites is they are totally protected in New Zealand and people are required to release them immediately if someone catches them.

"If they accidentally find a dead one in their net they need to report it to DoC."

He said they were most likely to be seen in the blue water over 18C, but hammerheads and bronze whalers were likely to come closer to shore.

He said the risk to water users was very low, as the last fatal shark attack in Hawke's Bay was in 1886.

"There hasn't been a serious shark attack in Hawke's Bay for well over 100 years. The last fatal shark attack in Hawke's Bay occurred along Marine Parade pre-World War I," Mr Duffy said.

"There have been a few incidents where people have stood on stingrays and initially determined it a shark attack, but when the wound has been treated it becomes obvious it is a stingray."

Mr Duffy said stingrays were another wonder of local waters.

"The short-tail stingrays you have in Hawke's Bay are some of the largest. There is a mix of lengths, but the largest one on record is 4m wide with a weight of 358kg.

"They are the largest stingrays in the world and you have some very large ones in Hawke's Bay.

"They are not aggressive animals, but being stabbed by a stingray can result in life-threatening injuries," Mr Duffy said.


 


Treatment was to stop blood flow and irrigate with water as hot as the victim could stand, he said.

Other water dwellers which liked to holiday in Hawke's Bay were dolphins."It is very common to see large pods of common dolphins at this time of year around the coast."

Marlin, sun fish, tuna and short-fin spear fish were also commonly spotted here, and of course the famous gannets were in full swing for summer, too.

Whales had mainly finished passing through, but there was a notorious "gang" of lingerers often seen off the coast of Central Hawke's Bay, Mr Duffy said.

"Most of the whale species will have probably already passed through Hawke's Bay waters by now," he said. "But there is a pod of killer whales [orcas] who have sightings in December and January in CHB, there is a pod of about half a dozen animals.

"Very, very rarely you get sightings of Hector's dolphins in Hawke's Bay. They have been seen off Clifton, Pourerere and Bare Island at Waimarama.


 


"Those sightings are very rare but have all been at this time of year."


 


HAWKE'S BAY MARINE LIFE



  • Hawke's Bay waters have some of the largest mako sharks and short-tailed stingrays in the world. Makos here grow up to 4m long and weigh in at 415kg, while the stingrays can reach 4m wing-spans and weigh up to 350kg.


  • Rare sightings of Hector's dolphins have been reported off the coast of CHB at this time of year, and a pod of orcas are also often seen there.


  • New Zealand's most recent fatal attack occurred at Bay of Plenty's Te Kaha on New Year's Day 1976. A spearfisherman was attacked as he was lifting a fish into a boat. The shark was never seen, but experts say the injuries suggest a bronze whaler shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus).


  • Hawke's Bay's last victim of a confirmed fatal shark attack was 26-year old Napier man Bright Cooper, who was killed just five days before Christmas swimming off Marine Parade (out from where Ocean Spa is now) in 1886.


  • Other water dwellers seen in local water for summer were sun fish, marlin, spear fish, tuna and the famous gannets.


- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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