A crayfish diver's close encounter with a great white shark in the Whangarei Harbour in New Zealand has sparked warnings in the area for swimmers and other divers, local media reported Wednesday. The incident took place last week off Peach Cove, near the entrance to Whangarei Harbour.
Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy said the witness gave a detailed description of what was "definitely a great white shark, in excess of 5.5 m (18-feet) long." Duffy also said, citing the description, that it could possibly be a pregnant female great white, according to local media.
"The advice to the public is that they should be aware that sharks can be present in the area at any time; swimmers should avoid areas where bait fish are concentrated and areas where birds and dolphins are feeding," an advisory read. "If divers encounter a great white they should try to find shelter, assess its behavior and once it has departed either swim to shore along the bottom or try to surface directly under the hull of the boat so as to minimize the amount of time they are silhouetted against the surface."
Duff, who warned people that the great white shark was a protected animal, urged swimmers and divers to provide more details about any sighting as it would help them satellite tag, or photograph the predator.
Shark sightings are not uncommon in New Zealand, and the country has seen several horrific attacks over the years, with the deadliest in February 2013, when a 46-year-old swimmer was attacked and killed while swimming from Maori Bay to neighboring Muriwai Beach. It was believed that the shark was a 12-foot great white.
However, the number of shark attacks in New Zealand have reduced in the last six years. According to a report submitted to the Global Shark Attack File (GSAF), there were only seven unprovoked shark attacks in New Zealand between 2011 and 2016.
“I think the surprising thing is not that people get bitten, but how rarely they get bitten,” Dr. Malcolm Francis, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) scientist and New Zealand’s foremost shark researcher, reportedly said in March. “We seem to be pretty lucky in that we’ve got great white sharks right around New Zealand, but they must be pretty good at distinguishing people from their normal food, otherwise there’d be people getting eaten every week.”
Below are some tips as to how to survive a shark attack. According to an article on the Florida Museum of Natural History website, a shark attack can be avoided by observing certain rules.
1. Choose to swim in a group as sharks most often attack lone individuals.
2. Don't wander too far from the shore as it may be difficult to return fast for help in case you spot a shark.
3. Avoid the water at night, dawn, or dusk as sharks are most active at these times.
4. In case you have a cut or you are bleeding, do not enter the water.
6. Avoid going into waters containing sewage as it attracts bait fishes, which in turn attract sharks.
7. Don't splash a lot in the water. Erratic movements can attract sharks.