Great White Shark Sex Rampant Off New Zealand

Each December, mature great white sharks gather in the waters off New Zealand’s Edwards Island to mate, an important process for the marine ecosystem that remains one of the ocean’s most closely guarded secrets.

Great white reproduction is described as the holy grail of wildlife film-making, according to scientist Riley Elliott. Though researchers know some of the behaviors that surround the mating process for great whites, much of it remains a mystery. When the sharks first arrive in New Zealand, they throw their weight around with each other, establishing a pecking order, Elliot told the Southland Times.

“They kind of bar-fight each other,” he noted.

Gathering about 10 km from Halfmoon Bay, the great whites form into recognizable packs, as their behavior becomes more aggressive. By the time the female sharks arrive, a hierarchy is already in place. While the mating process has yet to be documented, researchers know that male sharks bite females behind the gills during sex, thought to be a primary reason why female great whites can have skin 10 times thicker than their male counterparts.

Around Edwards Island and nearby Stewart Island, the sharks share the ocean with cage divers, to the chagrin of many locals. Detractors claim that the baiting practices involved with the cage diving industry draw great whites to the area. As the Inquisitr has previously noted, the practice is considered controversial in some other regions of the world for the same reasons. The diving companies, for their part, assert that the 38 to 42 great white sharks that converge on the area each season have always done so.

Elliot asserts that Stewart Island has the privilege of showcasing one of the ocean’s apex predators, and has suggested a levy on cage diving companies that would help to fund the preservation of the great whites’ habitat. In particular, Elliot advocates for a limit on the quantity of bait used to attract the sharks, pointing out that it is important that the great whites are not fed so well by divers that they stop seeking out food elsewhere. As Dr. Greg Skomal, a shark researcher who works for the state of Massachusetts, told National Geographic earlier this year, long term association of humans with food is the the greatest potential danger that cage diving poses for great white sharks.

[Image: Getty Images via the Times]