Shark map shows New Zealand areas with most attacks

  • 08/06/2018

If you're thinking of braving the water for a winter swim or surf, look away.

A chilling map of New Zealand shark attacks shows where you're most likely to be bitten. It uses records dating back to the early 1800s to show the areas with the most attacks and fatalities.

According to Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, there have been 12 people killed by sharks in New Zealand since records began.

The last fatal attack was in 2013 at Muriwai Beach. Adam Strange died after being attacked by a shark witnesses said was about 4m long. It's believed the attack was most likely carried out by a great white.

"This map shows the locations of recorded shark attacks in New Zealand," Te Ara says.

"The cluster around Auckland is to be expected because of the area's dense population and the popularity of swimming in its warm waters.

"The cluster of attacks around the less densely populated and cooler Dunedin-Otago region may indicate more dangerous species in that region."

The Shark Attack Data website records 125 attacks in New Zealand - however this includes incidents such as sharks roughly bumping into people.

One of those bumped into was Paul Baird at Nelson's Tahunanui Beach in 2010. He was left with bruises after being investigated by what was believed to be a blue shark.

"It really felt like I'd been hit by a small car," Mr Baird told the Nelson Mail.

Shark expert Clinton Duffy says it's typical for blue sharks to nudge prey before biting.

"They usually bump large potential prey several times before attempting to feed. They are usually easily dissuaded with a good thump," he told the Nelson Mail.

The last victim to make headlines was a French tourist in her 20s, who was bodyboarding in Southland when a shark bit her leg in April 2017. The attack took place at Curio Bay in the Catlins, leaving the woman with "a very deep gash to the back of the leg".

Fortunately, most great white sharks take off over winter, travelling to the tropics for the warmer water.

How to avoid attacks

Kiwi zoologist Riley Elliott - known as the 'Shark Man' - told RadioLIVE it's very important to be aware of the water conditions and what's going on around you.

His advice is: 

  • Don't go swimming where people fillet their fish, and don't swim in murky waters where there's low visibility as a shark could easily mistake flashing jewellery for a fish.
  • The time of day is key. Dusk and dawn are feeding times for sharks and the perfect time for them to ambush their prey.

But the chances of an attack are low. Mr Elliott 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 said.

"They eat what they're evolved to eat - and that is fish species predominantly."