Shark release early this morning

Tuesday 16 May 2023, 10:38AM

By Napier City Council


Napier aquarium tank May 2023
Napier aquarium tank May 2023 Credit: Napier City Council


The National Aquarium of New Zealand released two sharks into the ocean early this morning, returning them to the waters from which they originated.

These were the aquarium’s last remaining sharks, a 2.2 metre broadnose sevengill shark and a 1.2 metre school shark.  Both species are naturally occurring in Hawke Bay and are wide spread throughout New Zealand waters.

Rachel Haydon, General Manager at the National Aquarium, explains that the decision to release the sharks was due to recurring abrasions the sharks experienced to their noses (rostrums).  

“We have had success where the abrasions heal, but unfortunately it ultimately happens again. The team has implemented a lot of strategies to reduce chances of injuries, but have not been able to eliminate them completely. The best thing at this stage is to release these animals to the wild”, says Rachel. “In the end we need to do what’s right for these two individuals.”

Aquarium staff are confident the sharks’ rostrum damage will be resolved by a change in environment. All other species housed in the Oceanarium are in good health and have not experienced similar issues.

Throughout the process, National Aquarium staff have been supported by Napier City Council’s Māori Directorate Te Waka Rangapū. Te Waka Rangapū with mana whenua, under the guidance of Council Kaumatua, performed karakia and ensured tikanga was followed for the release of the two sharks back to Hinemoana (Mother of the Sea).

National Aquarium staff have also worked closely with local and international veterinarians on a plan for release of the sharks before submitting an application to MPI. This was approved in April. Staff have been waiting for an appropriate weather window to safely carry out the release. The National Aquarium’s accrediting body, the Zoo Aquarium Association (ZAA) Australasia has been notified and supports the decision.

Three sharks died following the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle. They were a school shark and two spiny dog fish.

There are no plans to introduce new sharks into the current Oceanarium at the National Aquarium of New Zealand.