16 Nov 2022

Coroner calls for monitoring of great white sharks following fatal attack

1:57 pm on 16 November 2022
A great white shark, South Australia.

Great white shark numbers are increasing in New Zealand waters and the reasons for this have yet to be researched. File photo. Photo: Gérard Soury / Biosphoto

A coroner has recommended research and monitoring of great white sharks after the death of a woman from a shark attack in the Bay of Plenty last year.

Kaelah Marlow, who was 19-years-old, died after being bitten by a great white shark at the southern Bowentown end of Waihi Beach on January 6th 2021.

The coroner's report, which was released this morning, said attacks by great white sharks were rare but almost always fatal.

Hamilton Coroner Michael Robb noted that although great white sharks had always been present in New Zealand waters, their population was increasing and the reasons for this had yet to be researched.

The report recommended that research, tagging, and satellite monitoring of the sharks in the North Island be undertaken.

"Research is the key to preventing or at least reducing the risk of a similar death or injury occurring in the future," the report said.

The coroner recommended tall surf lifesaving towers be erected in an elevated position on beaches where great white sharks were known to exist. The use of drones by surf lifesavers, and signage warning of the possible presence of the sharks, were also recommended.

"Public funding is likely necessary," said the report.

A statutory provision, which would allow lifeguards to require members of the public to leave the beach or to close a beach for any given period for the safety of the public, was also recommended.

While Surf Lifesaving New Zealand could provide advice, "they had no statutory authority to direct members of the public," said the report.

Robb said public funding was likely to be needed to support these efforts.

Marlow had travelled with friends from Hamilton to Waihi on the day the tragedy occurred. The coroner found no foundation to initial media reports implying that Marlow had been in difficulty for some time or the lifeguards were slow to react, and he extended his condolences to her family and friends.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs