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Biologists, Fish and the Possibility of Something Good

The Neptune Islands are famous for their great white sharks that congregate to feed on the pups of New Zealand fur seals, and prior to their local extinction (likely in the mid 1900s), little penguins. But true to nature, the sharks don’t always appear ‘on cue’. After 4 days ‘in the cage’, in water much colder than I’m used to, with no sharks sighted it was time to head back to the office.

Whilst the sharks may have been fickle, the temperate waters surrounding North and South Neptune islands team with life. Near the surface silver trevally form dense schools occasionally parted by large yellowtail kingfish. Closer to the bottom were dense kelp beds covering rocky outcrops. Also near the bottom, 2m+ black stingrays and smaller bullrays mingle with 20kg blue groper, and schools of horseshoe leatherjacket are attracted to the cage.

The cage (and divers within) and the burley used under strict permit conditions undoubtably alter the behaviour of these fishes and also of the gulls that flock around the boat, but the quantities of burley used are not great and can’t be sustaining this rich ecosystem. Perhaps like me, lured to the Neptune Islands by the possibility of seeing a great white, the fishes and gulls are attracted simply by the possibility they might get a feed.

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