The grisly discovery of a dismembered great white shark at Pilot Bay in Tauranga is being investigated by the Department of Conservation.
The White Shark Conservation Trust yesterday posted a photo of the juvenile great white shark on its Facebook page, saying it appears to have been killed to eat.
"The shark has what appears to be stab wounds to the head indicating it was killed after it was brought to shore. Someone must have seen the shark being caught or cut up," the trust said.
Clinton Duffy, the Department of Conservation's shark expert, said the photo showed the remains of the shark including the head, pectoral fins and innards.
"It looks like the rest of the body has been taken for meat," he said.
Duffy said it is illegal to retain any part of a great white shark, even if it was dead.
It is illegal to deliberately catch one of the sharks, but not illegal to accidentally catch one. It must be released alive and unharmed.
The great white shark is a protected species under the Wildlife Act. It is illegal to hunt, kill or harm great white sharks and the penalties are a fine of up to $250,000 and two years in jail.
Duffy said great white sharks are quite rare with a population of about 750 adults and 12,000 juveniles that move back and forth between New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. The population is considered stable or slightly decreasing.
"Globally white sharks are considered vulnerable," he said.
He said every year about 12 dead or dying great white sharks show up on New Zealand shores, but the Tauranga shark is the first one for a while that appears to have been taken for food.
"Not okay," said one person on the conservation trust Facebook page, "the culprits need to be found and thrown in jail."
"Despicable" and "disgusting" were other words used to describe the shark remains.
Duffy said the DoC office in Tauranga is investigating.
A Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) spokesman said: "We have not received a complaint about this, but are aware of the Facebook post and are looking into it."