Great white shark population in New Zealand and Australian waters lower than scientists thought

World first genetic analysis of the white shark population in Australasian waters shows the numbers of the threatened species are lower than scientists thought.

White sharks are also widely known in New Zealand and Australia as white pointers or great white sharks.

Research published in scientific journal Nature Scientific Reports, and updated with new samples and analyses, estimates the total number of adult white sharks across the Australasian region is only around 2,210. 

Department of  Conservation marine technical adviser Clinton Duffy says the research is significant because it's the first time it has been possible to estimate the total number of adults in the New Zealand white shark population. 

The total number of adults in the 'Eastern' population, which includes New Zealand, is estimated to be about 750. Adding juveniles to the numbers results in an estimated total population size of 5,460.

This new information shows how vulnerable the species is - Clinton Duffy, Department of Conservation marine technical adviser

"We had assumed the population was low because of the slow breeding and growth rate of white sharks, but the numbers are a bit lower than we thought," Mr Duffy said. 

White sharks migrate seasonally between New Zealand, Australia and the islands of the south-west Pacific. Their threat classification status in New Zealand waters was assessed in 2005 as 'Declining'.

"This new information shows how vulnerable the species is," Mr Duffy said. 

The main threats to white sharks in New Zealand waters are through accidental by-catch in fisheries, particularly for small juvenile sharks on long lines and adults in set nets, he said.

The research was led by scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Hobart. 

Scientists from DOC and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) contributed to the study. They provided genetic samples from white sharks tagged near Stewart Island, Chatham Islands and the New Zealand mainland, and from sharks accidentally caught by fishers.

NIWA principal scientist Malcolm Francis says estimating the abundance of large sharks is difficult because the tools normally used by fisheries scientists, like trawl surveys, acoustic surveys or tag-recapture experiments, don't work well for them.

"This new genetic technique offers strong promise for monitoring rare and threatened species," he said. 

Dr Francis says NIWA and DOC have been jointly studying white sharks in New Zealand for more than 10 years, and the opportunity to collaborate with their Australian colleagues in this study is an important breakthrough in understanding the status of the Australasian white shark population.

White sharks are absolutely protected in New Zealand waters and if people accidentally catch one they must release it immediately alive and unharmed, and are required to notify DOC. 

Source: 1 NEWS

Winning 2020 election focus of National's caucus retreat as leadership speculation falls to the wayside

Bill English emerged from the National Party caucus retreat in Tauranga today, eager to shift the focus from leadership speculation to the 2020 election. 

"It's clear from talking to business in Tauranga there is a lot of uncertainty to government policy," he told media today.

Mr English said National have a "real commitment" to holding what he called a "fundamentally weak" government to account, and would be focusing on the 2020 election. 

1 NEWS political reporter Andrea Vance has the latest from the National Party caucus in Tauranga. Source: 1 NEWS

"We've got a strong team. National's not pretending [not getting into government] didn't happen... we fell short one way or another, even though we ran a good campaign and are by far the biggest party."

He said National would continue to work with parties with "whom we have a common interest" from now until the next election, which included NZ First. 

"We are going to work to get the government to moderate its policies... but we intend to viciously oppose industrial relations policy and the policy to close partnership schools."

Speaking with media Mr English turned his attention to proposed charter school legislation by the government, which would allow some existing charter schools to continue but would be decided on a "case by case" basis.

The National Party leader called the decision 'the worst of ideological behaviour'. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's nasty and vindictive policy, and the victims of it will be the kids. For a government who say children are at the heart of everything they're doing, the PM has not been able to give one reason why it is good for those kids to have their school closed. I think it's a disgrace."

The proposal comes after MPs Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson said they were in favour of the model. Mr Jackson's Manukau Urban Maori Authority runs a charter school in South Auckland and had plans to open another.

Mr English said the proposed legislation was the "worst of ideological behaviour".

"The focus of these partnership schools are kids who were struggling. It changes their lives and the lives of their families."

"I challenge her to go to the schools and cook some sausages for the kids and tell them, 'this is the last one, because I'm going to close your school'." 

National's leader says the party won't rule forming a coalition with NZ First in the future. Source: 1 NEWS


Measles warning in Canterbury after second person contracts virus in a month

The Canterbury District Health Board is investigating a second case of measles in Christchurch after an 11-year-old has contracted the virus.

The 11-year-old child is recovering at home after contracting the virus in a waiting room. 

The diagnosis comes after a 30-year-old was hospitalised last month with measles.

Symptoms of measles include fever, coughing, runny nose, sore red eyes and white spots inside the mouth, often after three to five days a rash may appear.

Measles are highly contagious and need to be treated by a health professional.

Dr Humphrey of Canterbury DHB says the re-emergence of the virus is a timely reminder to everyone in our community to ensure that they are fully immunised. 

Measles Source: Breakfast