An astonishing concentration of great white sharks has been recorded in a New Zealand harbor, surprising researchers despite the region’s reputation as a hotspot for the species.
A team of scientists recorded the white shark gathering early in January, over the course of two days, according to the Northern Advocate. They observed the sharks at a single site in Kaipara Harbor, and noted that it was the largest concentration of great whites documented in New Zealand’s upper North Island.
Clinton Duffy, a Department of Conservation marine scientist who was with the research team, related that the gathering was highly unexpected. The team set out to tag great whites as part of a satellite tracking program, and had previously recorded a record of eight white sharks in a single area.
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“It was by far the largest number of white sharks we’ve ever seen in the Kaipara Harbor in a single day,” Duffy observed.
The sharks were found in the southern part of the harbor, about five kilometers off Shelly Beach. Mostly juveniles, the largest great whites in the group measured three and three-and-a-half meters in length. Researchers were able to tag several of the sharks, and tracked one to Port Waikato, while another ended up at Ninety Mile Beach, as the New Zealand Herald relates. While fishermen caught one of the sharks near the researchers, the anglers quickly cut their line after realizing they had hooked a great white, which is a protected species.
Though unsure of what caused the mass gathering, scientists speculate that the white sharks were feeding on fish that frequent the region’s tidal flats. They point out that the sighting was important, as it sheds light on the species’ population and distribution in New Zealand, which is poorly understood. Previously collected data indicates that the North Island may serve as a breeding ground for white sharks, and possibly as a nursery for juveniles.
“The missing piece of the puzzle is where are the juveniles coming from — the sharks appear to be breeding in New Zealand, so do we have our own breeding population, and if so, are there identifiable nursery areas?”
Another white shark nursery has also been located along the eastern coast of Australia, as the Inquisitr recently reported. Scientists observed that the region is home to numerous juvenile white sharks, thought to be between two and six-years-old.
While researchers are aware of the nursery areas, connections between the great white sharks and harbor areas remain a mystery.
[Image via CNN]