Reported shark sightings further up north serve as a reminder that shifting ocean temperatures this summer could bring the apex ocean predators closer to shore than usual, although experts maintain there is nothing unusual about increased sightings at this time of year.
It was only a few months ago when what was believed to be a great white shark was spotted east of Ngawi, leaving a diver scared but unhurt from the incident.
During the past week, Surf Lifesaving NZ has reported a swell of shark appearances across the North Island’s coastal waters, with over 40 sightings observed over the past two weeks by lifeguards in Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.
Riversdale Surf Lifesaving club captain Mike Taylor said that so far this summer they had no reports of shark sightings in Wairarapa.
He confirmed that the pilot of the club’s spotter plane had said there was no sign of any sharks in the region’s coastal band.
There are 66 types of sharks found in New Zealand waters, five species of which are protected, including great whites and basking sharks.
A spokesperson for the Department of Conservation [DOC] said shark sightings peak over the warmer months as more people flock to the coast.
“Shark sightings usually peak over spring and summer as more people head to the beach and several coastal shark species move inshore to pup and feed on abundant inshore fish,” the spokesperson said.
“During this period, calm conditions and cleaner water make for easier swimming conditions for sharks closer to shore.”
DOC’s technical marine advisor, Clinton Duffy, emphasised that it is normal to have an increase in shark sightings over the summer.
“While there have been a few shark sightings over the holiday period, there has been nothing particularly unusual about the number of sightings or species reported.”
Marine scientist Riley Elliot recently hinted that the cooler, “more productive” waters brought to New Zealand’s coastline by the El Nino winds might bring with them an increase in fish numbers, including sharks.
Elliot has previously described Wairarapa’s coastline as an attractive home for sharks due to its healthy and productive marine environment.
Although El Nino weather patterns bring patches of cooler waters, Wairarapa is also included in a list of coastal areas impacted by recent marine heatwaves, according to a report released last year.
The report – titled Seasonal Trends in Marine Heatwaves – noted strong warming occurring east of Wairarapa.
The annual summary for 2023 from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research [NIWA] annual summary for 2023 said last year was on track to be one of the top three hottest years on record for New Zealand.
Final temperature figures will be released in NIWA’s annual climate summary released in the next few weeks.