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Trip Reports

New Zealand Great White Shark Expedition

written by Monique Fallows

A Great White shark in New Zealand.

Posted on Friday, 3 April 2015

March 2015

 

After a very long 36 hour journey from Cape Town to Stewart Island in New Zealand it was not very heartening to hear the words of our taxi driver “If you can’t cuddle them, kill them!”

This was his general feeling for wildlife in New Zealand and it certainly seemed to set the tone of the trip.

 

We were back in New Zealand to spend a week filming for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2015. There is a healthy population of Great White sharks that congregate around the Titi Islands which are located very close to Steward Island in the South. More specifically the highest concentration of sharks seem to spend their time around Edwards Island which has a scattering of New Zealand fur seals loosely strewn around this particular Island.

 

 

New Zealand has become well-known for clear water visibility and good numbers of sharks making it a fantastic Great White shark cage diving area.

Unfortunately the local community in Stewart Island have not exactly embraced this new eco-tourism industry and there is a large amount of friction between the shark operators, the Islanders that are in support of the industry and those who are not.

The negative sentiment in Steward Island stems from the age old chumming debate. The authorities have therefore placed a one bait per day restriction on the operators and this made trying to achieve the objectives of the film shoot extremely challenging if not downright impossible.

Once the bait was lost to a shark it meant the day was basically over as another one could not be used.

 

The irony of the situation is that the islanders are opposed to chumming from shark boats but small fishing boats, of which there are quite a few, clean their fish in the exact same areas as the shark boats and nobody bats an eye.

It is very important for the industry to be regulated particularly from my point of view that the sharks and wildlife are handled and treated well. What is also important to realise is that the cage dive operators are the ones who will ultimately look after the sharks as they have a vested interest in them, so clearly a balance needs to be found and under the current regulations it seems unlikely that too many film crews will be able to achieve their goals, be they conservation or sensation orientated.  

 

We were back in New Zealand to spend a week filming for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2015.

A Great White shark, and any shark for that matter, will only approach a boat if there is something there to attract it, and this also means that baiting has to be used to get the sharks to come closer to camera’s and cages.

Not only were we up against virtually impossible regulations but a number of natural factors also paid their part. A cyclone had just hit the Northern part of New Zealand which sent a large rolling swell all the way down to the Fauveux Straits where we were working. We were hoping to be able to work on the eastern side of Edwards Island which is shallower and has a beautiful canvass of a variety of kelp and seaweed with which to film the sharks against.

The big swell limited us from anchoring on this side and also churned up the water so much that visibility for diving and filming became very poor.

 

Despite these challenges we still had a number of Great White sharks present each day and no matter what the conditions and objectives it is always a privilege to spend time with the sharks.

Chris reported seeing up to five sharks per dive. This time round however, the sharks were far less curious and interactive as there wasn’t a dominant animal in the mix as was with Fred in 2014.

 

Approximately 95 Great White sharks have been tagged around the Titi Islands and info has been gathered that they arrive here between December and January each year and depart again between May and July.  Their tags have recorded their movements from The Titi Island all the way into the Tropics and Australia. There also seems to be a fair amount of sexual segregation. 80% of the sharks we saw were male sharks and this was in keeping with visiting over a similar time period in 2014.

The bigger females are expected around mid to late April each year.

 

We saw a variety of different size sharks, the smallest being 2.5 meters and the largest just over 4 meters. We were really hoping to see a very large male shark from last year, Fed, who is just over 4.5 meters. Unfortunately we missed this incredible animal and we can only hope that he is safely making his way down to Edwards Island.

 

I’ll need to hold off on writing about the actual filming and storyline of this latest Air Jaws documentary as there is still more filming to be done. So, please stand by for September 2015!

 



To read the blogs of our 2014 New Zealand trip click on the below links:
Great White Sharks of New Zealand

Nature Experiences in New Zealand

Tags:

Air Jaws, Great White Shark, Marine Life - New Zealand

Comments

JJ King

Great report Monique. Thank you for giving us this detail on your time in New Zealand. Will be keen to read the Sept 2015 report!!

Posted on: 7 April 2015

Monique Fallows

Thanks very much John, hopefully at some point we can all make a trip down there as discussed!

Posted on: 7 April 2015

Gianfranco Della Rovere

Well done Chris and Monique, you are the best. I would like this experience with you.

Posted on: 7 April 2015

Ian Klopper

Awesome report M. The trip sounds amazing and the pics back it up. Wish the water was that clear here. Send Chris our love. Missing you guys this side.

Posted on: 7 April 2015

Jo Leask

Great reading Monique. Looking forward to seeing more! See you again soon, Jo and Wayne x

Posted on: 8 April 2015

Cherry Clark

great to read about the trip even with the frustrations encountered. Looking forward to seeing the results on Shark Week!

Posted on: 9 April 2015

ryan harrison

good to hear shark bytes monthly, with regards to limited chumming on the recent nz trip, I believe ron and val taylor used to play acdc under water to attract curious whites, however I can understand this may also scare them away ( I am a fan myself ! ) it is a shame that the attitude towards sharks is still negative that you recently encountered in nz but it has to be said that it is almost everywhere. education only will remove the ignorance and the divine right to kill these majestic animals , then maybe we can try to understand living in harmony with the natural world around us. thanks for taking the time to read my post , Ryan

Posted on: 11 April 2015

Monique & Chris Fallows

HI Ryan, Thanks for taking the time to make your valued comments. Here in South Africa we went through a similar situation needing to inform the public about the positive aspects of our great white shark eco-tourism operation and industry, and we now have a large amount of support from the community. As such we have encouraged the operators in New Zealand to pursue a harmonious relationship too. As always we continue to educate people on the true nature of sharks and try to give people a better understanding of this remarkable predator. Thank you for your support!

Posted on: 13 April 2015

Rich McGuinn

Hi Monique, what an amazing crew you get to spend time with. Words cannot express how much I would love to be on that boat with you all!!!! Me and Alun are heading back to SA next year via Kruger and are looking forward to catching up with you all. Promise I will not be chumming the seas myself like last time (no wine tour the day before this time Richie lad!!!!!). Best wishes to you all and speak soon.

Posted on: 17 April 2015

Monique Fallows

Looking forward to seeing you both next season, and easy on the wine tours!

Posted on: 17 April 2015

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