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Great white shark to blame for Muriwai attack - expert

Thursday 28 Feb 2013 10:12 a.m.

A shark expert says yesterday's fatal attack at Muriwai Beach was most likely carried out by a great white, not a bronze whaler as some reports have claimed.

Adam Strange, 46, died yesterday afternoon after being attacked by a shark witnesses said was about 4m long.

Craig Thorburn, senior curator at Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium in Mission Bay, says the great white is the only shark found in New Zealand waters capable of attacking and killing a human being.

"New Zealand's pretty lucky – we've got about 62 species of shark that swim around our coasts," says Mr Thorburn.

"In reality, there is only large shark that's capable and behaves in such a way that would take on an animal the size of a person, which is a great white shark.

He says bronze whalers stick to eating fish, small sharks and rays, and "wouldn't be involved in an attack on a large mammal".

"It is most likely it was a great white shark swimming in that area. They're common in that area, so it would make sense."

The attack happened only 200m from the shore, but despite their size, Mr Thorburn said this wouldn't be a problem for great whites.

"Great whites, most sharks in fact, are quite comfortable in shallow water. That's not particularly a factor."

The good news is the shark – and any others that assisted it in the attack – are probably long gone from Muriwai Beach.

"They may hang at a food source for a couple of days, but in these situations, and particularly on our north and western beaches, they are likely to be transient – there was a one-off incident and I kind of agree that yeah, that shark is most likely to have moved well on by now."

Since records began in 1852 there have been 45 recorded shark attacks in New Zealand waters, 12 of which were fatal, including yesterday's incident.

"They're swimming around our coast all the time, and they have been doing this for decades, hundreds of years," says Mr Thorburn.

Muriwai Beach will remain closed today and tomorrow as authorities try to confirm of there any sharks still in the area. Piha, North Piha and Bethells beaches are all still open.

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