Thursday 7 January 2021

Woman dies after Shark attack in New Zealand.

A woman has died after being attacked by a Shark at Waihī Beach in the Bay of Plenty on New Zealand's North Island on Thursday 7 January 2021. The woman, who has not been named but has been described as being in her early 20s, was pulled from the water with bite injuries to at least one leg, slightly after 5.00 pm local time, and died shortly thereafter, despite the efforts of paramedics. 

Paramedics attend after a woman was attacked by a Shark Shark at Waihī Beach in the Bay of Plenty on New Zealand's North Island on Thursday 7 January 2021. Tadhg Stopford/New Zealand Herald.

Shark attacks are rare in New Zealand, and the nature of the Shark responsible is unclear. The most common Sharks in the area are Bronze Whalers, Carcharhinus brachyurus, a species not generally associated with attacks on Humans, as they typically feed on smaller Fish and Cephalopods in deeper water, but are thought to be responsible for about 30% of Shark attacks in New Zealand. There have been two fatal Shark attacks attributed to Bronze Whalers in Australia in the past decade, although the last fatal attack in New Zealand attributed to the species occurred in 1976. Notably, a number of incidents of Bronze Whalers harassing spear fishermen for Fish tied to their belts have been reported in the Bay of Plenty recently, which may indicate the local population is coming to associate Humans with food.

A Bronze Whaler Shark, Carcharhinus brachyurus, at Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World in Auckland, New Zealand. Robert Nyman/Flikr/Wikimedia Commons.

There have also been reports of Great White Sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, in the Bay of Plenty this summer, a species far more associated with attacks on Humans, and the pattern of this attack does appear to have matched that associated with this species. Despite their fearsome reputation, attacks by Great White Sharks are relatively rare, and most  attacks on Humans by Great White Sharks are thought to be mistakes. The species feeds principally on Marine Mammals, which we superficially resemble when we enter the water, gaining the majority of their nutrition from the thick adipose (fat) layers of these animals, which we lack. Due to this, when Great Whites do attack Humans these attacks are often broken off without the victim being consumed. Such attacks frequently result in severe injuries, but are seldom immediately fatal, with victims likely to survive if they receive immediate medical attention.

A Great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias, off the coast of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, in August 2006. Terry Goss/Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons.

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