Swimmer spots bronze whaler sharks two days in row at Omaha Beach

By Lucy Xia of RNZ

There was commotion and excitement at a popular beach north of Auckland on Wednesday after yet another shark sighting - but experts say it was common over summer and that most sharks did not pose a risk to swimmers.

Omaha Beach was packed with holidaymakers when the bronze whaler was spotted late afternoon on Wednesday.

The beach was abuzz as people left the waters and waited for 30 minutes for the shark to pass by.

Ocean swimmer Ritchie Wattson who encountered a shark the day before at the same beach said it was not uncommon.

"There's plenty of sharks - I mean, it's not a case of if there are sharks, it's a case of how far away they are," he said.

He said he was not too concerned.

"They're all heading around the corner to goat island to have a feed anyway, they don't really want us, so I'm not terribly concerned."

Clinton Duffy from the Department of Conservation's marine species team said bronze whalers were the most common large shark species in northern New Zealand at this time of the year.

He said they ate fish and squid and were generally not a risk to people out on the water.

"They're quite often just seen swimming amongst people at the beach, but the swimmers and other water users themselves are completely unaware that the sharks are there... the sharks are swimming along the beach, swimming around people, that's how disinterested in people bronze whalers are," he said.

Marine scientist Riley Elliott shared a similar view.

He was out with his drone capturing shark behaviour at Pauanui in the Coromandel yesterday when he captured seven bronze whalers in a 20-minute flight.

"With drone perspective, you see these animals are very passive, very calm, and in fact in some of the imagery when swimmers and surfers come out in the water.

"Sharks from a distance will get curious, come up and about 50 metres away, realise there's a person, and they actually avoid them, they turn directly around and swim the other way," he said.

Elliott said the creatures were not doing anything out of the ordinary. 

He said the golden rule was to not dump fishing carcasses where people swim regularly - and vice versa, for people to avoid swimming in areas where others are fishing.