A man is dead after being attacked by a shark while swimming at Muriwai Beach, north of Auckland.

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Police in inflatable rubber boats shoot at a shark off Muriwai Beach. Picture: AP

A man is dead after being attacked by a shark while swimming at Muriwai Beach, north of Auckland.

Emergency services rushed to the popular west coast surf beach just before 1.30pm local time (1130 AEDT) today following reports of a shark attack.

Police say the man was found dead in the water and he had been bitten by a large shark.

His body has since been recovered.

A St John ambulance spokeswoman said the victim was a 47-year-old male.

Inspector Matt Sillars said police shot the shark and they were attempting to retrieve it.

Fisherman Pio Mosie told Fairfax Media he saw the man out swimming before the attack.

“All of a sudden ... we saw the shark fin and next minute, boom, attack him then blood everywhere on the water,” he said.

Mr Mosie called 111, while his friend ran to get help.

“He was still alive, he put his head up, we called him to swim over the rock to where we were.

“He raised his hand up, and then while he was raising his hand up we saw another attack pull him in the water.”

Craig Thorburn, group curator for sealife at a number of aquariums across New Zealand and Australia, including Kelly Tarlton’s, says shark attacks in New Zealand waters are incredibly rare.

“Statistically, we see about one attack every three years and about one fatality every 20 years,” he said.

There are a couple of things that may cause a shark to attack, but “most of it comes down to wrong place, wrong time,” Mr Thorburn said.

“They’re quite inquisitive animals by nature, so either they’ve gone in to test out something to see what it is, or they’ve gone to physically bite it with the intention of eating it, or they’ve been provoked and bitten in a defensive manner.”

Mr Thorburn said the shark involved was most likely a great white.

It’s fairly common for fishermen and others to encounter great white sharks, which are found all around New Zealand, he said.

Muriwai beach, as well as the surrounding Muriwai Regional Park, have been closed.

Auckland Council says it expects the park will be closed for the next few days.