Fishermen Catch Great White Shark, Lifeguards Say They Stopped Them From Eating It

Fishermen were stopped from taking home to eat a great white shark they caught in a net off the coast of New Zealand, according to lifeguards.

The juvenile female shark, measuring 2.7 meters long, was trapped in a gill net cast by fishermen off Auckland's Orewa beach on Thursday, the Department of Conservation (DOC) told New Zealand public radio station RNZ.

Clinton Duffy, technical advisor for the DOC marine species team, told RNZ the animal was likely 5 or 6 years old, and was a decade away from reaching maturity. He said the shark had net entanglement marks "all over it," which likely explain how it died.

Sharks need to swim continuously to send water over their gills in order to breathe, Duffy explained. The shark carcass would be used for research, he said. The DOC has been contacted for comment.

A New Zealand Police spokesperson told Newsweek the force attended the scene, and is working with the DOC to investigate the incident.

One woman identified only as Casey told Newshub she saw a group of men catch the shark in a net. They brought it on to the beach, stopped people from rescuing it, and kicked it, she said. Casey claimed they planned to consume it. "100 percent they were like, 'we're taking this home to feed everyone,'" she said.

Lifeguards at the scene told Newshub that while they didn't see anyone acting maliciously towards the beached animal, they also believed the fishermen planned to eat it.

Lifeguards warned the fishermen they couldn't remove the animal, as great white sharks have been a protected species in New Zealand since 2007. Hunting, killing or harming white sharks is punishable with a fine of up to 250,000 New Zealand dollars ($166,000), and six months in prison.

Orewa beach lifeguard Hayden Bartlett told Newshub: "Once we realized it was a great white we said 'no, you can't take it' and waited for police and DOC to come down and sort it out."

Erika Perkinson, who was at the beach with her family at the time, told New Zealand's 1 News TV station she was among those who had gathered around the shark after it died.

"There was a lot people, kids had been kicking it and throwing things at it which were really distressing," she said.

Perkinson said she heard a conversation over the lifeguard radio stating people who had lured the shark were acting aggressively towards people who were trying to save it.

She said a lifeguard told her the fisherman had earlier been using longlines at the beach, and were told to stop because people were swimming. The fishermen then returned with a net and caught the shark.

Perkinson said: "They wanted to take it home and eat it, apparently, the lifeguards said no, DOC is on its way, you can't take this, it's a protected species."

A woman named Casey Gibbes told 1 News she and her husband attempted to save the shark by taking it by the tail and pulling it into the water. She said some bystanders warned this might drown the animal.

"But it did expel some of the sand once he got out there because he sort of turned it but we'll never know," she said.

"The guys who had got it in the net went and pulled it back onto the shore," she said. Gibbes said the fishermen were "intimidating" and made people trying to help the animal feel uncomfortable.

New Zealand Police encourage anyone who witnessed the incident to contact the DOC on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468), or the police on 105.

great white shark, stock, getty
A stock image shows a great white shark swimming in water. Getty