Shark dive operator will fight on

Backed by his shark cage diving vessel Fierce Elegance at Careys Bay yesterday, Shark Dive NZ...
Backed by his shark cage diving vessel Fierce Elegance at Careys Bay yesterday, Shark Dive NZ operator Peter Scott says he will fight on after the Court of Appeal ruled his operation was an offence under the Wildlife Act. Photo: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A Dunedin shark cage diving operator is vowing to continue operations, despite the Court of Appeal ruling his business is illegal.

Meanwhile, a members' Bill to regulate shark cage diving was drawn from the ballot yesterday and will be debated in Parliament.

The Court of Appeal this week ruled shark cage diving was an offence under the Wildlife Act, ending a long-running legal battle between Stewart Island paua divers, the Department of Conservation and two companies: Shark Dive New Zealand and Shark Experience.

Shark Dive NZ operator Peter Scott said opposition to cage diving from Stewart Island residents and paua divers centred around misplaced fears it made sharks more aggressive and likely to linger around boats, and scaremongering from those in the paua industry.

"It's all over fear and greed."

Mr Scott said "aggression" from Stewart Island locals had forced him to shift his base to Bluff.

His operation, where thrill-seekers are lowered in a cage just below the surface of the water to get close to great white sharks attracted by a fish mixture, took place near Edwards Island in Foveaux Strait.

A great white shark cruises past a shark cage diver off Edwards Island near Stewart Island. Photo...
A great white shark cruises past a shark cage diver off Edwards Island near Stewart Island. Photo: Peter Scott
He was still taking bookings for the planned start of his season in December, saying he had no other option.

Together with his lawyer, he was willing to take the case to the Supreme Court to allow operations to continue, he said.

Mr Scott believed the Court of Appeal's judgement would have implications far beyond shark cage diving.

"The wider implications ... are that any tour operators working with protected species, the likes of albatrosses or anything outside of the Marine Mammals Protection Act are in trouble, because they're doing nothing different than we're doing.

"There'll be a lot of other operators out there that'll be more worried than me."

Mr Scott welcomed the news yesterday that National MP Sarah Dowie's members' Bill to regulate shark cage diving had been drawn from the ballot, on the proviso any new law reflected the existing code of conduct and involved consultation with operators.

Ms Dowie said the Bill would provide conditions for granting permits for commercial shark cage diving, along with minimum distances of operation from areas such as beaches.

"It would also provide the means to ensure that the people operating the cages work in a way that poses no threat to sharks, while ... mitigating the clear threat to the safety of the public using the sea for work or recreation."

 

Comments

It's a bit of a stretch to think the locals on Stewart Island were the aggressors. Time and again shark operators engaged in ultra hyped film projects at the island touting, "monster, killer, sharks" and even went as far as to feature a local shark attacking a dingy with divers in it. If you want to be a good neighbor, don't come into your neighbor's backyard and set fire to the barn? Operator greed, disregard for community, and lack of basic understanding about Stewart island culture lead us to this point. It would be wise for the shark operators to back off and take stock of the damage they have done. Then again, wisdom is not a thing they have actively pursued since the first day they dropped cages and began a campaign of marginalization of the local population. Tourism has to address all parties and not just wallets and titanic egos. A bit of wisdom for free.

Ban an educational service for thrill seekers while protecting paua hunters.. am I missing something? Seems like the paua divers are really just against ANY group encroaching on what they've deemed to be "their turf". Tour boats, sightseeing, wildlife watching, private passenger boats, vide/film industry, sport fishing.. the list goes on. They're starting with the cage diving business, winning legal battle sets precedent for future cases against all local maritime businesses. Surely the ocean is big enough to designate zones for both activities.