Meet the shark who's been holidaying in the Bay of Plenty for the past three summers

Bowentown is a popular summer holiday destination in the Bay of Plenty. But it's not just Kiwis spending their summer lapping up the sun on the beach, a great white shark has made the town its regular destination.

The shark, recently tagged as part of new research into the movements of great whites in Bay of Plenty waters, has been visiting the small town for the past three summers - and has got researchers and shark 'fin-atics' excited. 

Shark scientist Dr Riley Elliott, who tagged the new shark, said the Bowentown Harbour has been a "hotspot" for great white sharks.

After frequent encounters through the summer of 2021/2022 in the Bowentown area and along the Bay of Plenty coast, Dr Elliott was issued a Department of Conservation permit in June to track and satellite tag 20 great white sharks.

The Great White Project is driven by public funding, and people can donate $4000 - the price the tagging costs - to sponsor a shark.

Dr Riley Elliott said the Bowentown Harbour has been a "hotspot" for great white sharks.
Dr Riley Elliott said the Bowentown Harbour has been a "hotspot" for great white sharks. Photo credit: Supplied

The tagging is run through the Sustainable Ocean Society - a non-profit established by a group including Dr Elliott - and the shark's tracking is displayed on their website.

Since the project started in December, two female sharks called Daisy and Takami have been the stars of the show, which were both tagged a few days after it commenced.

But now a new shark is in the spotlight.

Mananui is a 3.2-metre-long female great white shark
Mananui is a 3.2-metre-long female great white shark Photo credit: Supplied

Mananui, named by the area's Hapū Te Whānau a Tauwhao, is a 3.2-metre-long female great white shark, the largest tagged so far.

Her name Mananui means great prestige and was a stronghold Pā site protecting Te Whānau a Tauwhao people. 

"Like Mananui the Pā, she represents a stronghold presence of prestige and great mana," Dr Elliott said.

At six years old, she is classified as a sub-adult which means she is no longer a juvenile but is not reproductively mature.

Mananui was tagged on Monday.
Mananui was tagged on Monday. Photo credit: Supplied

Mananui, who was tagged on Monday, wears battle scars and scratches which helped Dr Elliott recognise the shark from three summers ago.

The great white has a rip on her dorsal fin. Dr Elliott recognised it and looked back at his footage from a photo ID catalogue started back in 2019 when people started seeing great whites in New Zealand and realised it was the first shark he had identified in it.

"It's just an incredible animal in this environment," he said.

Mananui pictured near the boat.
Mananui pictured near the boat. Photo credit: Supplied

It's unknown whether Mananui migrates somewhere else in the winter or stays near the Bowentown Harbour, but now her movements can be tracked. 

"To resight such a majestic animal in this close vicinity to a place which is such a holiday hotspot, I think that's why we keep getting great positive feedback about tracking these sharks because people are just fascinated by them," Dr Elliott said.

While some great white shark activity has been seen historically in the northeastern region of the North Island it has been rare.

A combination of shark protection, warmer sea temperatures due to climate change and changes to fishing methods may have resulted in a growing population of juvenile great whites inhabiting this region, Dr Elliott said.

But for people who aren't too fond of the idea of swimming with sharks, Dr Elliott reassures that sharks are the least of their problems when swimming in the sea.

"They just kind of do their own thing and it reflects on the fact that they eat fish and so they want nothing to do with us," he said.

"Have respect for them. If you don't want to see a shark then probably don't go where they live, the ocean. But at the end of the day, we're Kiwis and we love the ocean."

People can see the movements of the great whites he has tracked via the Great White App and the Sustainable Ocean Website.