By Dr Riley Elliott
Well what a summer that wasn’t LOL. But the Great White Project made a very successful first season thanks to the massive community support from the greater Waihi region. People who sponsored tags, reported shark sightings, accommodated myself and crew and the incredible Bowentown Boat & Sport Fishing Club, which has been a hub of information sharing.
Luckily, even with constant onshore winds and swells, the inner harbour allowed 8 weeks of tagging effort.
The first week of December, 2022 resulted in 12 Great Whites being identified, with two being tagged. Through January, two more Great Whites were tagged and then the floods came.
No more Great Whites were seen by myself during the next 6 weeks of effort that spanned March-April.
The floods had a significant adverse effect on the Great Whites, as seen most prevalently by SWAJ and Mananui, who both made mirror image migrations north to Doubtless Bay and later around to the West Coast. Mananui made an amazing return migration all the way back into the Bowentown harbour where her tag came off, likely related to masses of sea debris.
Thanks to huge community support, we found the tag, and given Mananui has been identified through fishers’ photos three summers running now, we hope to re-tag her this coming summer. Likewise with Daisy, the most famous of the sharks. SWAJ continues to signal from off the west coast, where she has been going up and down, from Port Waikato to 90 Mile beach. Will she come back? Time will tell, but the goal for the Great White Project this coming season is to deploy as many tags as possible.
Hopefully, El Nino will provide stable summer seas, allowing far greater numbers of sharks to be tagged. The data collected from this project to date is so novel, identifying pupping and nursery grounds, which are incredibly rare. Thus it is being published in scientific journals and presented in the annual Great White Shark Global Conference in Australia, in November.
We also filmed a Discovery Channel Shark Week documentary on the project which aired in the northern hemisphere in July and will reach our TVs in December, 2023.
This project is so reliant on the community, especially observation of Great Whites being reported. So please, if you see a Great White, try and get a video or photo and email email@example.com. It helps so much in knowing when and where the fish are.
Thanks so much to the Waihi Beach community.