These beautiful sharks spend alot of time cruising the shallow shores of the Bay of Plenty. They can be found down to a depth of 100m in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
Bronze whalers are commonly found around the northern half of the North Island over spring and summer when they move into shallow coastal waters near reefs, bays, estuaries and surf beaches.
They are called whalers because they used to gather in large numbers around whale carcasses after they had been harpooned in the 19th century.
Bronze whalers feed on fish like eagle rays, snapper, mullet, kahawai and kingfish....
As the name suggests, these sharks are bronze in colour but their underbellies are cream. The upper lobe of the tail is far longer than the lower lobe.
Their skin is thick and leathery to touch. Like Great White Sharks, they have denticles, which are like small teeth, embedded in the skin. These channel water-flow over their bodies, to easily slip through the water.
They take about 30 years to reach a maximum length of three metres but most are between 1.5 and 2m. They are slow growing and will be between 15-20 years old before they reproduce. This is one of the reasons for which they are now considered a vulnerable species according to the IUCN.
These cartilaginous fish will bear live young. Bronze whalers are viviparous which means the embryos develop within the mother and are provided nutrition via a yolk-sac placenta and then give birth to between 7 and 20 pups.
The bronze whaler is one of the most abundant large shark species in New Zealand coastal waters and are the shark species most likely to be encountered by divers around the country.
They are not normally aggressive to humans, although spearfishers have been bitten by excited sharks.
These sharks eat live or dead fish, so spear fishers should remove their catch from the water as soon as possible.
Their eyesight is probably limited only by the visibility of the water. They may be able to see tens of metres, as far as humans can, underwater.
In the link below is a beautiful video of a Bronzie swimming at Pauanui Beach.
A lovely friend, Steph Bathgate (BOPRC) observed 5 bronze whalers while surveying (by air) Matakana Island dunes for mature coast tea tree. They were cruising around the bar between Matakana and Bowentown hunting sting rays.
Bronze whalers are undoubtedly caught for food, by sports anglers and taken as by-catch in a number of areas. Sadly in some areas they are caught for their fins which fetch a big price in some overseas markets.
Their numbers are dropping due to over-fishing, it takes a long time for them to recover their numbers as they are slow breeders.
Shockingly, a statistic published by WWF states that in the Pacific Ocean alone 3.3 million sharks are caught as bycatch by commercial longlines annually. Sharks are not the only creatures who get caught in this mess..
Sharks are integral to the maintenance of a healthy ocean - by rapidly depleting shark populations in the manner that we are, we are degrading our marine environments and depleting biodiversity.
“You should be scared if you’re in the ocean and you don’t see sharks” — Dr. Sylvia Earle