Shark Twain? Sharky McSharkface?
If you can think of a better name for a sevengill shark, Elizabeth Prentice would like to hear from you.
On New Year’s Day, the Waitaki Boys’ High School teacher went to Oamaru Harbour to take photos of the shags on Sumpter Wharf.
Miss Prentice was then alerted to the presence of three sevengill sharks nearby.
She photographed one of the sharks and sent the photos to Shark Spy, a citizen science initiative aiming to collate data about shark species in Otago waters.
Shark Spy informed her the sevengill shark, which can be distinguished by the pattern of spots on its back, had not been reported before, so Miss Prentice now has naming rights.
“Why don’t we ask the people of Oamaru what to call it?” she asked the Oamaru Mail
“Especially kids, because we need to educate kids not to slaughter these animals just because we don’t understand them.”
Miss Prentice said it was “quite neat” to see the shark, which she estimated was about 1.8m long.
“They’re lovely animals and I feel sorry for the way they are treated.”
Shark Spy co-ordinator Rob Lewis said sevengill sharks existed around the world, but not much was known about them in New Zealand.
“They can pose a risk to humans, but generally we don’t have many incidents.
“Most of incidents that occur with sevengills [are] usually with spear-divers who have their catch tied to their body.
“Generally, they are not involved in many negative incidents.”
Oamaru residents should not be afraid of swimming in the harbour, he said.
“It’s not going to be a new problem been coming into the harbour for years.”
They were a shallow-water species and more likely to be found in New Zealand during the summer, he said.
Miss Prentice’s photo would be an important piece of data if the shark was spotted again, he said.
“If we see that shark somewhere else, then we know it has travelled between these two points.”
It was either a mature male, or a female that still had room to grow, Mr Lewis said.
“They are a fantastic species, and I would say decently important in the costal eco-systems around New Zealand.
“They feed on everything, so no matter what is in the water with them, they are exerting that controlling force down the food chain modulate our ecosystems.”
Shark Spy had received multiple reports of shark sightings off the Otago coast since it launched late last year.
“The people [who] have sent stuff in have been super helpful,” Mr Lewis said.
Mr Lewis is giving a presentation about the Shark Spy project at the Oamaru Library at 6pm on February 10.