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DOC Says Sharks May Visit Mass Stranding Site In Mahia, Caution Urged

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is warning people to be cautious around the waters of the Mahia peninsula, as the remains of stranded whales and dolphins may attract sharks.

A pod of about 45 false killer whales and bottlenose dolphins stranded on Sunday afternoon at Taylor’s Bay on Mahia Peninsula.

After an initial refloat, the pod re-stranded on a remote and inaccessible reef point about 1.5 km further south from Taylor’s Bay on the peninsula.

DOC alongside its iwi partners made the difficult decision to euthanise the animals.

An adult female false killer whale and calf and an adult bottlenose dolphin were towed to a burial site by iwi representatives. The remaining animals have been left for nature to take its course as it is a remote location.

DOC Technical Advisor Marine Clinton Duffy says people should avoid swimming in the Taylors Bay and Mahia Beach area for now, as sharks may be attracted to the remains from the stranding.

“We want to alert the community that there is likely to be increased shark activity in the area, as they are attracted to feed on the remains.

“Several shark species feed on whale and dolphins, including their carcasses, and can be attracted to the site of whale strandings. These include sevengill sharks, blue sharks, tiger sharks, and great white sharks.

“Research shows that great white sharks attracted to whale strandings exhibit accelerated swimming and increased rates of turning (indicators of foraging) up to 3 km from the carcass. Avoiding the south-facing beaches around Mahia for now is a useful precaution.”

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If you encounter a shark while swimming or diving and cannot identify it or are unfamiliar with shark behaviour, the best thing to do is leave the water quickly with as little commotion as possible. Let nearby beachgoers or boats know, as well as lifeguard patrols if they are present.

The public can report sightings, captures, and strandings to DOC either anonymously via the Protected Species Catch App, via email sharks@doc.govt.nz, or by calling 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

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