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Shark diving tourism industry defends allegations

Shark diving tourism industry defends allegations

Southland, 7 December 2014 - The shark cage diving tourism industry is fighting back on allegations made against it by the paua diving industry.

In February 2014 the Department of Conservation announced that permits would be required from 1 December to dive with sharks in coastal waters, coinciding with the start of the diving season at Stewart Island. Along with this requirement however, the shark diving tourism industry are once again facing a campaign by PauaMac5 to shut down their eco-businesses.

Allegations of modified shark behaviour through feeding and diver-shaped dummies have resulted in shark dive businesses concerned that these spurious claims have been brought to a select committee. “These claims are unfounded and based on only rumour and hearsay,” says Peter Scott, of Shark Dive NZ. “Our company has worked closely with DOC and other stakeholders to ensure the safety of all concerned, with the sharks being the top of this list”.

Claims that paua divers face an elevated risk of shark attack as a result of cage diving operations are false. “There is no scientific research conducted which indicates that these sharks have been conditioned by cage diving tourism worldwide,” says Mr Scott. “The risk has always been there and always will be. We spend such little time at the Island it would be impossible to condition an apex predator. There are different sharks that come through every day that we have never seen before”.

PauaMac5 has indicated it would like a year-long moratorium issued to allow time for study to be conducted on the impacts of cage diving on the Great Whites.

“The paua industry is fragmented on what they’re trying to achieve here,” says Mr Scott. “First they are worried for their health and safety, then they are worried about recreational users, and now they’re concerned about conservation measures for the sharks. Their mandate seems to change on a whim”.

Cage diving operations at Stewart Island have been operating seasonally since 2007.

ENDS

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