A diver suffered minor injuries after a run-in with a great white shark at Kupe’s Sail near Cape Palliser.
Clinton Duffy, the Department of Conservation (DOC) technical adviser marine, said the department was aware of the incident yesterday.
Great white sharks were fairly common in New Zealand waters from the Kermadec Islands to the Subantarctic Islands, he said.
While there had not been any recent sightings before this one, there were regular reports of sharks in the Wairarapa region.
The best thing to do if people spotted a shark in the water was to get out as quickly as possible, with as little fuss as they could muster, then let the other beachgoers and boaties know, as well as the lifeguard patrol if there was one.
“To increase your safety at the beach, swim between the flags. Avoid swimming or diving at night, near seal colonies, large schools of fish or areas where marine life are actively feeding, or in areas where people are fishing or discarding fish remains.”
Although the incident was alarming, Duffy said such instances were very rare.
“Most encounters between humans and great white sharks do not result in bites. Other animals and other water activities have historically been much riskier to human safety.”
He also noted shark incidents were less likely to happen than drownings, which in 2021 were the leading cause of recreational deaths and the third highest cause of accidental deaths in New Zealand.
In November this year, a coroner recommended more research and monitoring of great white sharks after the death of a woman in the Bay of Plenty.
Kaelah Marlow, 19, died after being bitten by a great white at the southern Bowentown end of Waihī Beach on January 6, 2021.
The coroner’s report, released in November last year, said attacks by great whites were rare but almost always fatal.
Great white sharks are a protected species and are rare as they produce few young. Because they sit at the top of the marine food chain, Duffy said sharks were a good indicator of the marine environment.
“A healthy ocean is one with lots of sharks.”
Vita Molyneux is a Wellington-based journalist who covers breaking news and stories from the capital. She has been a journalist since 2018 and joined the Herald in 2021.