Shark scientists ask Kiwis to keep eye out for tagged school sharks

If you dream of being a shark scientist, well now's your chance.

A researcher tracking tagged school sharks wants back-up this summer and is asking the public to report sightings of the species.

The Kaipara Harbour, north of Auckland, is New Zealand's largest. Famous for its snapper, it's also a popular playground for school sharks - and researchers want to know why.

"Especially since we see the big ones come in and then over summer, an influx of juveniles - so we think that it's a potentially really important area for school sharks in New Zealand," Massey University PhD student Alex Burton says.

As part of his PhD, Burton is fitting school sharks with two types of tracking tags.

"So that we can actually see what areas around New Zealand the school sharks are moving from to come to the Kaipara Harbour, and then where they go when they leave."

New Zealand's population of school sharks is among the highest in the world, but little is known about the species. Found among New Zealand's coastal waters, particularly in the North Island, the school shark is a houndshark of the family Triakidae. Common names also include tope shark, snapper shark and soupfin shark.

"There's been some historic tagging done here and there's been a bit of age and growth, but we don't have a really good handle on their critical habitats," Department of Conservation marine species technical advisor Clinton Duffy tells Newshub.

To fill in the gaps, scientists want Kiwis to keep a look out for the tagged sharks if they're captured, or the tags themselves if they wash up.

If you happen to stumble across one of the tags on the shore, don't throw it away - the data inside is extremely valuable.

"If we're able to recover the tag itself then we're able to get very, very detailed data about the animals' movements and diving behaviour," Duffy says.

There are records of school sharks travelling almost 5000 kilometres, which is why it isn't just New Zealanders being asked to keep their eyes peeled.

"We'd love to hear from fishers or the public from overseas. Any school sharks that are captured around the world we'd love to hear information about that," Burton says.

It's hoped the research will help scientists better understand the creatures, who call our waters home.