Having a shark-enthusiast in the family doesn’t only make everyone in the family a ‘shark lover’ but it also makes you do quite unusual things.
Take me for instance, I never thought this would happen: here I am innocently out walking the dog along Oreti Beach, minding my own business, taking care not to disturb the flock of oyster catcher birds by the water edge. There was a lot of seaweed around, some really big pieces that feel like leather and the smaller stuff that looks like ferns. Black back seagulls dig between the washed up shells and scurry away as we approach.
As I walk on I notice something that doesn’t look like a piece of seaweed at all – stepping closer I see the grey sleek body of ….. something …. Stepping a little closer the figure lying in front of me didn’t quite register to start with but a second and third look certainly confirmed it – it’s a deceased smallish shark! I whip out the mobile phone to snap a couple of pictures (nope, for once I didn’t have my camera with me) and I take time to look a little closer while trying to keep the canine at bay who would very much appreciate this fishy lunch or use it as cologne that only another dog would appreciate.
Quietly pleased with myself I walk on saying to myself ‘ I’ve seen a shark, I’ve seen a shark’.
Back at the car my thoughts return to the shark and at the slight twinge of sadness that my ‘shark expert’ (my eldest son) wasn’t on this impromptu trip to Oreti Beach. I’m at the Steed Street roundabout when it dawns on me that I perhaps should have ‘scooped’ the shark up and taken it home for closer inspection. I ponder on this as I find myself turn right around the round about and drive back towards the beach!
No, this is crazy, I can’t just scoop up a dead shark and take it home – can I? Shall I? Oh why not! I’ve done stranger things! So with renewed enthusiasm I drive towards the ocean, now quietly hoping no one else has spotted ‘my’ shark lying on the beach. Grabbing a large trash-bag out the boot (don’t ask why they are in there) and the dog I head back out to where I had seen this little ‘fella’…. Was it still there? YES!!! So doing the old poop a scoop maneuver I managed to get the shark into the trash bag without touching it. Walking back hauling my ‘treasure’ I realized this wee guy is actually quite heavy, plus I started to worry about the trash bag ripping but I made it back to the car with bag intact and shark inside.
There are about 66 types of sharks found in New Zealand waters, and it is said that encounters with sharks usually happen over spring and summer when the sharks move inshore to pup and feed. The one in the bag is approximately 1.5-2m in length, grey-ish with a long tail (top of fail is longer than the bottom) so at first guess this could be a ‘Thresher Shark’ (juvenile) or the more common ‘Rig Shark’ – but regardless, it’s the first shark type fish I’ve seen up close. (This ‘little’ guy is most likely a ‘rig shark’).
The most famous is off course the Great White Shark, New Zealand is currently working to give greater protection to these magnificent predators and any sightings should be reported to the Department of Conservation’s Marine Conservation Unit – Invercargill office 03 211 2400.
You may recall back in November 2012 the tale of a Mako shark named ‘Carol’ who was tagged and tracked during her round trip from New Zealand to Fiji (a round trip of 11,000km) and recently the Cook Islands turned 1997 million square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone into a sanctuary for sharks and rays – the largest in the world (this achievement has a nice Kiwi flavour with Aucklander Stephen Lyon who’s idea turned into reality). Although more can obviously be done to further protect these magnificent creatures (including the banning of Shark Finning in NZ waters), thankfully New Zealand is beginning to appreciate, understand and respect these breath-taking predators and continue to turn out some of the most passionate marine biologists, scientists and shark experts. And my find on Oreti Beach just proves that you don’t have to go far from home to find inspiration or interest in a subject as vast as the deep blue sea from which it came.