Frances Cook is a Wellington based multimedia reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Porbeagle shark washes up at Petone along Wellington coast

A porbeagle shark washed up on Petone beach today. Photo / Brit Finucci
A porbeagle shark washed up on Petone beach today. Photo / Brit Finucci

The "safe version" of a great white shark has washed up on Wellington's shore, leaving experts puzzled about what may have happened to it.

The Porbeagle shark was spotted in Petone by Stacey Gatfield-Tupou, who posted a photo to a Facebook community page.

The comments soon flooded in, with many saying they would stay out of the water. Others wanted to go and see the shark for themselves.

Victoria University PhD student Brit Finucci was sent in by Niwa, to see if a cause of death could be determined.

Once at the beach, she found herself overwhelmed by eager young helpers.

"A lot of parents pulled their children out of school when they heard about it, and ran right down here.

"It got a little messy dissecting the animal on the beach, but they were getting right into it.

"They wanted to see the heart, they wanted to see the eyes, the parents were saying the kids were learning more than they would have at school anyway."

Unfortunately it didn't help establish a cause of death for the shark.

"It was a mature male, just up to two metres long," Finucci said.

"But no obvious cause of death. I didn't see any hooks, or any marks from nets, so I'm not sure why he washed up there."

A Porbeagle shark has washed up on the shore in Petone, Wellington. Photo / Stacey Gatfield-Tupou.
A Porbeagle shark has washed up on the shore in Petone, Wellington. Photo / Stacey Gatfield-Tupou.

Skin, tissue, and stomach contents samples have all been taken back to the lab.

Niwa principal scientist Malcolm Francis said locals didn't have to worry about any shark attacks in the area.

The shark was usually a deep-water species, and wouldn't be likely to attack humans even if it came closer to shore.

"I had to look at the photo very closely myself, they're easily confused with mako.

The shark has been called a 'safer version' of a great white shark. Photo / Brit Finucci
The shark has been called a 'safer version' of a great white shark. Photo / Brit Finucci

"They're a small version of a mako and great white. If you like, the safer version of their bigger cousin.

"They usually feed on small fish and squid, they're not really into big things."

Francis said it wasn't the first time a Porbeagle had washed up in Wellington.

One was found in the Wellington Harbour several years ago. It was eventually taken to Te Papa.

- NZ Herald

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