Tauranga local worried increased great white shark sightings could have detrimental impact on tourism

A Tauranga local is worried an increased sighting of great white sharks could have a detrimental impact on tourism in the area. 

Commodore of the Bowentown Boating and Sport Fishing Club, Stu Curd, told Stuff he was "helluva concern" that the area could be associated with great white sharks. 

"Hopefully it hasn't reached that point, I don't know, hopefully it doesn't," he said. 

"There's obvious concern that someone could well end up getting bitten. I wouldn't go biscuiting up the harbour with my kids."

The concerns come after 19-year-old Kaelah Marlow was killed in a shark attack on Waihi Beach on January 7, 2021.

Her death was referred to the coroner but initial indications suggested she was bitten by a shark.

In December, the Department of Conservation (DoC) issued a warning for people to remain vigilant after an increased sighting of great white sharks in the Tauranga area.

Reports of great whites have increased since May 2020 and although an estimate of the number of sharks in the area can't be confirmed, so far six individual great whites have been identified.

Marine biologist Melissa Kellett said in December last year she has been studying sharks in Tauranga for five years. She says a large number of sightings are not only in the Bowentown area of the Tauranga Harbour but also along the coastline.

"Since May 2020 we have continued to receive reports of great white sharks in the area year-round and spread out through the Tauranga district," she says in a DoC statement.

"The size estimates of these sharks have been between 1.5m-3.5m in length indicating they are primarily juveniles and sub-adults."

The sighting of sharks hasn't been limited to the Tauranga area. First-time fisher Claudia Sánchez captured the moment two sharks stole the kingfish on her line in Northland while nine-year-old Cordelia Scott was bitten by a small shark on Christmas day when she was swimming in a lagoon at Pororari River at Punakaiki on the West Coast.

DoC marine expert Clinton Duffy issued a warning to beachgoers. He asked them to remain vigilant when out swimming. 

"Sharks are predatory animals but do not normally perceive humans as prey and most encounters with white sharks do not result in the shark biting the human," Duffy says.

"If you are visiting the ocean you need to be a little bit vigilant and aware of what's happening around you and swim where there are surf lifesaving patrols, and don't swim or dive alone.

"If you are heading out on the water, exercise caution and avoid swimming in the main channels where there are a lot of birds diving, or berleying from kayaks and jet skis when fishing."