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Canterbury seeks shark sightings

Date:  18 January 2010

DOC is currently surveying the Canterbury coast for basking sharks and seeks sightings from the public to help with the search.

The first of ten aerial survey flights took place this week, covering the coastline from Brighton, around Banks Peninsula and south to Rakaia.

Akaora-based biodiversity ranger Wayne Beggs said the aim of the survey was to spot large groups of basking sharks, to support satellite tagging research into the animal being carried out thanks to funding from National Geographic.

“There is very little known about the basking shark and boaties, surfers and anyone on the coastline this summer are in a good position to help us find out more,” said Mr Beggs.

“Basking sharks often group together in the summer, swimming slowly at the water’s surface to filter-feed on small plankton. They have often been seen off Kaitorete Spit. We would love to hear from anyone that spots these magnificent animals - call us!”

Basking sharks can grow up to 12 metres long, making them the world’s second largest fish after the whale shark.

“They are an impressive animal but completely harmless to humans as they are filter-feeders!” said Mr Beggs.

The aerial survey involves flying 16 10km-long transects from the Canterbury coast out to sea, with surveyors recording all key species seen. Ten flights are planned from now until mid-March.

“This first trip we spotted one shark, species unknown, and plenty of Hector’s dolphin.

The plan is, when a school basking sharks are seen, we will be recording their location by GPS, then scientific officer Clinton Duffy will come down to hopefully tag up to four sharks with satellite transmitters,” said Mr Beggs.

“The transmitters will give us information such as how their populations are changing, where they go, how far they move, how deep they dive.”

Similar tagging research carried out by Mr Duffy on white sharks led to their gaining protected status in New Zealand.

Sightings can be reported to Mahaanui Area Office in Christchurch ph + 64 3 341 9100 or

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