Shark sightings are on the rise in New Zealand

The warm early summer has brought an unexpected bonus - ocean temperatures that are on average 8degC higher compared to the average for this time of year.

But with those balmy waters come greater numbers of sharks, migrating towards to the warmth of the New Zealand oceans.

Now, as shark sightings rise, a shark expert has some tips for what to do if you spot one in the sea.

Make eye contact

Kiwi zoologist Riley Elliott - known as the 'Shark Man' - told RadioLIVE that if you spot a shark while you're in the water, the best thing to do is make eye contact.

It might seem a strange thing to do, but he says: "If you are looking at the animal, it can tell that and it will register that 'I can't sneak up on this guy'."

Mr Elliott says the move makes the shark - or any predator for that matter - far more likely to keep its distance.

"Keep looking at the animal, and if you're in the water then slowly and calmly back out. Respectfully remove yourself from its environment," he says.

Whale sharks are in Kiwi waters from November to March, with the peak of sightings in February, according to DOC.
Whale sharks are in Kiwi waters from November to March, with the peak of sightings in February, according to DOC. Photo credit: Getty

Be aware of your surroundings

Mr Elliott said it's also very important to be aware of the water conditions and what's going on around you.

Don't go swimming where people fillet their fish for example, and don't swim in murky estuary waters where there's low visibility  a shark could easily mistake flashing jewellery for a fish.

Time it right

The time of day is key. Dusk and dawn are feeding times for sharks and the perfect time for them to ambush their prey.

They're also both times of low visibility in the water.

The bronze whaler is one of the most commonly spotted sharks in the New Zealand summer.
The bronze whaler is one of the most commonly spotted sharks in the New Zealand summer. Photo credit: Auckland University

But also, just chill

Mr Elliott also says people need to keep their fears of shark attacks in check - we should be far more afraid of things like car accidents and drownings.

"[Sharks] don't hunt people. They're very good at hunting, so if they did, we wouldn't go swimming at all," he says. "They eat what they're evolved to eat - and that is fish species predominantly."

Mr Elliott said that as well as the warm waters, shark sightings increase over the summer months because more people are out, and increasingly carry camera devices.

Newshub.