11 Feb 2016

Kapiti shark sighting 'nothing to fear'

5:44 am on 11 February 2016

A sighting of five large sharks close to shore on the Kapiti Coast shouldn't cause alarm, a shark scientist says.

Kapiti Island, as seen from Waikanae Beach - north of Wellington

Waikanae Beach Photo: Dan Cederholm / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The sharks were seen near Peka Peka and Waikanae Beaches yesterday afternoon, forcing swimmers out of the ocean.

Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy said it was not unusual for large sharks to feed on smaller fish close to shore at this time of year.

"You don't know how long these sharks will be in this particular area, but there could be sharks in along that coastline well into autumn.

"Sharks move in shore in springtime, they come in to drop their pups and many of them stay to take advantage of the feeding opportunities close to shore."

One of the Sharks in spotted in Kapiti.

One of the five sharks seen near the two beaches, which Mr Duffy said were likely to be bronze whalers. Photo: Daniel Gendall

Mr Duffy said the sharks spotted were most likely to be bronze whalers, which were not considered dangerous.

"Bronze whalers, even though they are a large and fairly intimidating looking creature, they're pretty innocuous. They very, very rarely bite swimmers. There are no reported fatalities in New Zealand caused by attacks by bronze whalers on swimmers."

It was not uncommon to see large groups of bronze whalers together either, Mr Duffy said.

"Bronze whalers have been observed in schools from just a few individuals, like this, to sightings numbering hundreds, and I've certainly seen groups of more than 13 underwater before."

Mr Duffy said it was to be expected to see sharks in shallow waters all across New Zealand during the warmer months.