It's been twelve years since Hawke's Bay's last reported shark attack. Experts say it's generally safe to go into our water, but there are things we can all do to keep it that way. Maddisyn Jeffares reports.
Nine different species of sharks breed off the coast of Hawke's Bay every spring and summer. It's only natural then, that there will be sightings.
But bitings? Those are as rare as hen's, or shark, teeth.
Hawke's Bay's last shark attack was in 2009 - the non-fatal attack took place at Haumoana, just south of the Tukituki river mouth.
The man, a registered nurse, felt a sharp bite on the back of his leg while in the surf and ran out of the water, using his towel as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding before his partner drove him to Hawke's Bay Hospital.
The attack was suspected to have been a bite from a broadnose sevengill shark (Notorhynchus cepedianus).
The region's only fatal shark attack occurred on December 20, 1896, and claimed the life of Bright Cooper.
The attack, by what is believed to be a great white shark, took place about 25 metres off Marine Parade beach.
Department of Conservation shark expert Clinton Duffy said there are always more sharks seen inshore during summer.
However, warmer than usual water temperatures generally don't result in more sharks inshore unless current systems or the distribution of prey are affected.
"Dogs attack more people than sharks do and on average there are one to two people bitten by a shark in New Zealand each year," Duffy said.
When a shark is spotted in the water swimmers should get out of the water as quickly and calmly as possible, he says.
"If people follow all the usual water safety rules, particularly not swimming alone and swimming between the flags at patrolled beaches, they should be safe."
Duffy says avoiding swimming at night, or at dusk and dawn, are ways to prevent attacks, as these are times that large predatory sharks commonly feed.
Swimming in deep channels in estuaries, near river and harbour mouths, should be avoided as well as areas where people are fishing or discarding fish offal, and areas where there are large schools of fish or birds and dolphins actively feeding, he says.
Even so, the chances of attack are minimal.
Blue sharks and bronze whalers are two of the larger species to mate in Hawke's Bay waters.
Commonly pupping or birthing of pups appears to occur over a wide area of the inner shelf, the next step out from reefs.
Blue sharks and mako pup further offshore near the shelf-break in water, at around 200-500 metres in depth, and the juveniles move inshore.
"Most of these species, including bronze whaler and smooth hammerheads present little risk to swimmers because they either feed on shellfish (rig) or small fishes," Duffy said.
"Bronze whalers feed on slightly larger fishes including small sharks and rays."
When out spear fishing along the coast, do not leave speared fish in the water; get them in a boat or fish float as soon as possible, he says.
"If confronted by a large shark that is after their catch they should leave the catch behind and get out of the water."
Contesting the fish with the shark can trigger competitive behaviour in the shark, or sharks may bite or ram the diver to drive them off, he says.
It is unusual for sharks to make unprovoked attacks on boats, but hooking or luring sharks to a boat with berley or bait can provoke them. Even so, most are too small to be a threat.
"Mako of course are famous for jumping and occasionally landing in boats when hooked," Duffy said.
"Although it seems silly to have to say it, people should not harass or injure a shark going about it's business, but it does happen," he said.
Any injured animal will defend itself or react aggressively if harassed or cornered and sharks are no different, he says.
"They are particularly sensitive to anything touching their tails and most are flexible enough to bite their own tails. Pulling a shark's tail is a very good way to get bitten."