A marine biology expert says hundreds of dead and dying fish found on a Northland beach over the weekend had likely jumped out of the water to flee from predators.
Residents of the Karikari Peninsula were left flabbergasted after coming across the fish yesterday, which had thrown themselves out of the sea and onto the beach.
Dr Ingrid Visser of the Orca Research Trust says it's likely the fish were not fleeing from orca, as there had been no sightings in the area for about a week and a half, but said locals had reported seeing a large pod of dolphins in that exact area in the past few days.
"There was a large group of dolphins in very close to the shore off Karikari Peninsula, so it's possibly them ... it's highly likely," Dr Visser said.
"There was also a report of a large shark in the area, but ... a single shark, the fish tend to just split around them and race back out."
It is a common tactic for dolphin hunting groups to use anything they can as a barrier to trap fish - rocks, the surface of the water and even the shoreline - and some of those fish end up jumping on to the shore in a last-ditch effort to escape, Dr Visser said.