More research into shark behaviour needed to prevent further attacks in NZ, says marine scientist

A marine scientist says more research into shark behaviour is needed to prevent any further attacks at New Zealand beaches.

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Kaelah Marlow, 19, was killed while swimming in Waihi in early January. Source: 1 NEWS

Last week Kaelah Marlow was killed while swimming at Waihi's Bowentown Beach, and while it's believed to be related to a shark attack, the 19-year-old's death is still being investigated.

Marine scientist Riley Elliot spends most of his time with one of the world's most feared species.

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"Well I think what is unusual about this fatality is that it happened in an area and seemingly by a species that is very uncommon and that is great white in the Coromandel region,” Elliot said.

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He says last week's tragedy highlights the limited research on shark populations in New Zealand.

"I would like as a shark scientist to see more research in this area, I personally want to investigate that to ensure that we don’t have growing numbers of immature great whites inhabiting our holiday hotspots because that can end in tragedy."

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With shark sightings on the rise, Elliot says tagging the animals known to frequent populated beaches will help educate Kiwis about when and where to swim.

Sharks are a regular sight for lifeguards and fishing charters.

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“Our lifeguards aren’t reporting any increase in the amount sharks we're seeing, so we're quite confident it's just the sharks that have been there all through winter, they're there now and we can see them,” Allan Mundy from Surf Lifesaving NZ said.

"We'd see them about 95 or 98 per cent of the time, we'll encounter them either catching them on the rod or visually seeing them around the boat,” charter boat operator Jake Brebner said.