'I’ve never seen one that big in NZ': Shark washes up on South Island beach

A 2m-long porbeagle shark washed up on the beach near Westwood between the Kaikorai Lagoon and...
A 2m-long porbeagle shark washed up on the beach near Westwood between the Kaikorai Lagoon and Ocean View. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
A shark which is a close relative of the great white is not often seen in the waters near the Dunedin beach where it washed up, the Department of Conservation says.

Doc marine scientist Clinton Duffy said a 2m-long adult male porbeagle shark, a close relative of the great white and mako sharks, washed up on a beach between Waldronville and Ocean View earlier this week despite normally being found in deeper waters.

The species was commonly found off New Zealand coastlines, and it preferred to hunt in deep waters.

Porbeagles often got caught in the council’s shark nets until they were removed in 2011.

A common by-catch from trawling and long-line fishing, they posed no danger to swimmers.

"It feeds almost exclusively on baitfish and squid.

"They reach a maximum size of about 3m but I’ve never seen one that big in New Zealand."

It was not a protected species and was easy to misidentify as mako sharks because of a similar dark-blue colouration from above, Mr Duffy said.

Short-finned mako were potentially dangerous and should be avoided.

They were found all around New Zealand.

The distinguishing characters were a large white blotch on their first dorsal and they were generally stockier and had a more sharply pointed snout than the mako or great white.

"Anyone finding a shark washed ashore like this should take a photograph of it from side-on showing the entire animal including the fins, and one showing the detail of the teeth and send these to sharks@doc.govt.nz.

"Even if it is not a protected species, the biology of many of our sharks and rays is poorly known and every observation helps build a better picture of their distribution.

"Anyone accidentally catching a protected species or finding one on a beach should call the Doc hotline 0800 DOCHOT immediately.

"It is not an offence to accidentally catch a protected species but it is an offence not to report it," he said.

Protected species

Sharks and rays protected in New Zealand waters are:

 - Great white shark/white pointer

 - Basking shark

 - Whale shark

 - Oceanic whitetip shark

 - Smalltooth sand tiger/deepwater nurse shark

 - Oceanic manta ray

 - Spinetail devil ray

By Rafael Clarke