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DOC concerned over number of endangered juvenile great white sharks killed by fishers

There is growing concern from shark experts about the number of endangered juvenile great white sharks being caught in fishing lines.

DOC's Paul Mills with a juvenile great white shark found on Ninety Mile Beach. Source: Department of Conservation

In a statement today, the Department of Conservation said Northland was particularly bad, with 12 of the shark species captured since March last year around the upper North Island.

Five were caught on Ninety Mile Beach, with the latest just last week, and recreational fishers using kontiki and ‘torpedoes’ to set longlines off beaches were responsible for at least seven of the shark fatalities recorded, DOC shark expert Clinton Duffy said.

“The number of juveniles being caught on fishing lines is a concern because these sharks are endangered, and it means they won’t grow to maturity and contribute to the breeding population,” Mr Duffy said.

“We want fishers to understand that white sharks are protected and should be released in the water immediately. They shouldn’t be hauled up the beach or dragged backwards by their tails because that will cause further injury.”

It's believed there are only between 470 to 1030 adult great white sharks in New Zealand and Australian waters.

The sharks are vulnerable to a variety of fishing methods, including trawls, set nets and longlines, and have even been found drowned in crayfish pots.

In several instances, the sharks were quickly released and probably survived capture.

However, according to DOC, there has been cases where the carcasses were found discarded on beaches, and in some cases they had been butchered or had their jaws removed. There was also one carcass found finned before DOC staff were able to recover it. 

While it is not illegal to accidentally catch or even kill a great white shark, all fishers are required to release it immediately and report the event to DOC or a fisheries officer as soon as possible, the agency said.

It is illegal to retain any part of the shark for food or as a memento or trophy, even if it is dead.

DOC asked people who sight great white sharks to contact 0800 DOC HOT (0800 36 42 68) or send a photo to the Sharks Mailbox at sharks@doc.govt.nz to help assist research on the species, particularly understanding when and where they occur in different parts of the country.