The discovery of two dead great white sharks and a baby hammerhead on Bowentown Beach this morning has upset some locals.
The Ministry of Primary Industries says one of the sharks was found in a set net, but the net appeared to be legal.
The beach, near Waihī, was the site of New Zealand's most recent fatal shark attack. Kaelah Marlow, of Hamilton, died after being pulled from the water on January 7 last year.
Last week the Department of Conservation issued a warning for water users, saying there had been a rise in great white shark sightings in Tauranga Harbour, including Bowentown, and along the area's ocean coastline.
Bowentown resident Mandie Thompson said a neighbour told her there was a more than 2 metre-long great white close to her nearest beach access.
"Me, hubby and the kids ran down and had a little look. Sure enough, there was a great white sitting there. It was quite an impressive sight to see," she said.
"As soon as you got to the top of the dunes you could smell the shark baking in the sun."
The first great shark was found by beach access 39 near Tuhua Place.
She said two Department of Conversation staff were in attendance and a crowd of about 20 beachgoers were watching.
A blessing was carried out by local iwi, she said.
Roughly 200m down the beach there was another similar sized great white washed up and a baby hammerhead shark that Thompson's son found floating in the shallows.
She said the sharks were taken to the local marae.
The woman said two nets had been set near to where the sharks were found, which some residents were "quite upset" about. She believed the set netting had been in place for about a week.
The second great white they spotted had its teeth removed which Thompson said was "horrible".
"It is a real shame."
Thompson, whose family swam daily, said it was sad to see such "incredible" creatures washed up on the beach.
"It was fantastic to see them close, but at the same time, you just get this healthy respect and admiration for them. They are such incredible, solid-looking creatures."
A Ministry for Primary Industries [MPI] spokesman said its staff were on a "proactive patrol" looking for netting activity on the beach at around 5am today.
He said one great white was found inside a net, and another was washed up on the beach.
The netting was removed as the Department of Conservation (DoC) wanted it as evidence if necessary.
But it appeared the netting was "all legal and set legally".
"Unfortunately, sharks do sometimes get caught in set nets."
The MPI spokesman said DoC was the lead agency in this case but would work with MPI as the inquiry continues.
DoC has been contacted for comment.
Last week, DoC issued a warning for water users after a rise in reports of great white shark sightings off Tauranga's coast.
Great whites are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953. This means it is illegal to hunt, kill or otherwise harm them.
It's not illegal to accidentally catch a white shark but it must be released without causing it further harm, and it is a legal requirement to report the capture.
DoC said reports of great whites near Tauranga had increased since May 2020 and although an estimate of the number of sharks in the area could not be confirmed, photographic ID so far had identified six individual great whites, primarily of juvenile and sub-adult size.
DoC marine expert Clinton Duffy said sighting great white sharks in shallower coastal areas and harbours was not unusual and smaller individuals appeared to remain in New Zealand coastal waters year-round, making regular excursions up and down the coast and out to the edge of the continental shelf.
It was common for great whites to develop preferences for certain sites and return regularly and Duffy says if you spot a great white exit the water quickly and calmly and report the sighting to DoC.
"Sharks are predatory animals but do not normally perceive humans as prey and most encounters with white sharks do not result in the shark biting the human.
"If you are visiting the ocean you need to be a little bit vigilant and aware of what's happening around you and swim where there are surf lifesaving patrols, and don't swim or dive alone.
"If you are heading out on the water exercise caution and avoid swimming in the main channels where there are a lot of birds diving, or berleying from kayaks and jet skis when fishing."
Details of sightings, captures or strandings should be reported to DoC email@example.com or to 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).