Are There Sharks at Kaikoura?

Kaikoura is famous for dolphins and whales, but what about sharks? Are sharks ever seen near the Kaikoura coast?

As inhabitants of the ocean, just like millions of other creatures, sharks can be expected to be anywhere – and their right to exist respected. Irrational fear of sharks leads to their persecution and misunderstanding; but when it comes to Kaikoura particularly, there is nothing to fear from sharks.

Understandably, visitors embarking on an open ocean dolphin swim can have legitimate concerns about sharks. New Zealand on the whole is not prone to shark attack events, and Kaikoura even less so (see our statistic below, which lists only one known shark-human incident since the 1800s and where the person was not touched).

The well established dolphin encounter industry in Kaikoura simply wouldn’t exist if sharks were a concern. While the operators will tell you that sharks have to be expected to be around out in the ocean but there have been zero incidents or concerns with sharks during dolphin swims. So the odds are on your side. Likewise, operators who run seal swimming activities at Kaikoura are likely to tell you they’ve never even seen a shark around, let alone had a run in with one.

Although there have been anecdotal and alleged sightings over the years, mostly by fishermen, few have ever been confirmed. In 2014 “Dive Kaikoura co-owner Nigel Elson has been on more than 2000 dives and said he had never seen a shark, let alone a great white.”

Sharks simply aren’t common close to the Kaikoura coast. Businesses that tried to run shark encounter tours at Kaikoura eventually had to close down due to lack of sharks.

Out at the Kaikoura Canyon where water depths plungs, whale watch encounters may occasionally spot a shark from a boat; mostly mako sharks which are hunted by sperm whales, and plunket sharks which live so deep that they have huge eyes allowing them to see in the dark waters. Great White Sharks also live in the Kaikoura canyon, which begins over 500 metres off the coast of Kaikoura.

In June 2015, a porbeagle shark was found washed up at Kaikoura’s main beach. Sadly, experts predicted that the shark was one of the countless annual victims of the commercial fishing industry where they are often caught as by-catch and discarded overboard. These sharks live in deep ocean waters and are rarely encountered by humans.

The Shark Attack Data database lists all known incidents involving sharks and humans dating back to the late 1800s. In New Zealand, Kaikoura is mentioned merely one time on the list – an incident on December 9 2007 where a female surfer had her surfboard bitten by a shark. The species of shark was unknown and the surfer was not injured. This is the only ever recorded shark-human interaction near Kaikoura