A look back at 2014 for the White Shark Conservation Trust

2014 was our quietest year since we started in 2009 from all angles.

Our Facebook presence was largely dominated by the events in Western Australia which we have been following now for a number of years. This year marked the trail of a cull order by their premier, Collin Barnett. An order advised against by shark scientists in Australia and around the world.

perth cull

Photo credit: Perthnow.com

By the time the trail had ceased well over 100 sharks had been taken on the set drum lines, but not one of the target species  (white sharks), had been caught.  The cull order was met with protest and disgust by Western Australians and through social media, the rest of the world.  (An anti cull rally was organised by Shark Aid International in the UK outside the Australian Embassy in London in protest).  The cull order was lifted in September and in October a surfer survived an incident which resulted in two pointers being caught and destroyed.  In November a dead whale was filmed off Perth with a number of sharks including at least one white shark swimming around it whilst a local was filmed climbing onto the floating carcass (not the brightest of moves we must say).


Photo credit: Perth Now

In December a pointer was seen close to beaches off southern WA, and again the WA Fisheries department deployed drum lines to attempt to kill the shark.  This particular shark had been tagged in 2013 by the WA Fisheries department and their actions sparked worldwide protest again.  Thankfully the shark left the area without incident and the drum lines were removed.  Finally, sadly at the end of December a young spear-fisherman was attacked and killed by what was reported to be a white shark at Cheynes Beach WA triggering another hunt for the shark by the WA Fisheries dept.


More relevantly, we have had a number of reported sightings around our coast throughout the year and one incident in February at Porpoise Bay, in the Catlins area of eastern Southland coast when a surfer was bitten on the leg by a juvenile pointer.  The 28-year-old UK immigrant apparently punched the shark on the nose and swam to shore.

In March, NIWA and Department of Conservation returned to Stewart Island for the last time to tag and track white sharks that aggregate there, marking the end of a 10 year research project.

Photo credit, Clinton Duffy 2014

Photo credit, Clinton Duffy 2014

Three juvenile white sharks were followed during 2014, Pip, a 3.3m female shark; Caro, a 3.7m female; and Nicholas Cage, a 3.5m male shark. Pip was tracked across to New South Wales near Sydney, and data showed she took 20 days to travel 2020km from the southern Snares Shelf. She continued  northwards to Queensland waters.  Caro remained around Stewart Island for several months before starting begin her northward migration.  Nicholas Cage was tracked north as far as New Caledonia before turning round to return to our west coast.

Image Credit: NIWA

Image Credit: NIWA

The 10 year study showed that the sharks travel in a remarkably straight line on their migrations, averaging about 5km/h or 100 km/day, but have done up to 150km a day.  Data indicated they tend to spend time at the surface but also make regular dives between 200 and 800m – the record depth is 1246m.  For further information click here.

 In August we were fortunate enough to be invited to attend a necropsy of a juvenile white shark that was accidentally caught in a commercial set net off New Plymouth.  10626542_966289726730626_8634576691192716040_nThe fishermen concerned found the shark dead and contacted Department of Conservation who donated the shark to the museum. The shark was a 2.6TL juvenile male weighing 140kg. Parasites were collected both externally and internally for examination. The shark’s head was removed and has been preserved in order to CT and MRI scan it for research.

September we were invited to present a seminar to the Auckland Zoological Society.  Our seminar was based on the changes in public perception toward the White Shark over the last 50 years and looked at how the white shark was initially portrayed by Blue Water, White Death (the first white shark documentary), and Jaws in the 1970’s and compared this to the documentaries and attitudes of today.

In December a small group of experts and cinematographers set off to attempt to tag and track white sharks migrating north from the Three Kings area.  Among the team was Clinton Duffey, Andy Brandy Casagrande and Kina Scollay (not in image).IMG_4122Unfortunately the expedition was hampered by bad weather and was unsuccessful.

Finally, just after Christmas a family out fishing for snapper in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour got a big surprise when their bait was taken by a white shark which breached not far from their boat and was estimated to be between 4 and 4.5 meters!  The shark continued further in to the harbour, reportedly passed Point Chevalier travelling towards the Rosebank peninsular (where our head office is located!!!).

Here is to a busy 2015!



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