Shark not attacking: cage dive operator

The great white pointer filmed by Discovery Channel lunges at the film crew's tender boat. Photo...
The great white pointer filmed by Discovery Channel lunges at the film crew's tender boat. Photo by The Herald on Sunday.

Footage of a 6m great white shark lunging at a film crew's small tender boat off Stewart Island does not show an attack, the boat's owner, cage diving operator Peter Scott, says.

Images from the footage have been posted online by a group which claims the shark cage-diving industry is causing the predators to associate boats and humans with food, The Herald on Sunday reported.

However, Mr Scott, when contacted, said the footage was from two seasons ago and had been seen by 26 million people on Discovery Channel.

It ''was not anything new''.

While the footage was headlined as an ''attack'', the shark only appeared to be closing in on the tender boat (pictured), and in fact its nose had been snagged under the painter (light rope attaching the tender to the mother boat), Mr Scott said.

''It [then] lifted and rolled and looked like it was attacking the boat. It wasn't. We're still using the tender. There's not a scratch on it.''

The issue of cage diving has divided many on the island.

Some residents, fishermen and paua divers are concerned the shark-watching boats are attracting great whites to the area.

The operators say shark behaviour has not been influenced by their presence.

Shark Dive and another company, Shark Experience, were last year granted Department of Conservation cage-diving permits, with strict conditions including no shark feeding or use of decoys, controls on commercial filming and restricting diving to around Edwards Island, about 10km off the coast of Stewart Island.

The permits are to be reviewed after the first 12 months.

''It's not unnatural for them to come up and check anything on the surface ... a piece of paper, a boat. They are opportunistic,'' Mr Scott said.

Contact between sharks and objects, such as dive cages or tenders, ''was not common'' but the great white was a ''very curious animal'', and was always keen to check out anything floating on the ocean surface, he said.

Some North Island fisherman visited Stewart Island last month and because they were laying burley attracted sharks, which then ''trashed'' their unoccupied tender, Mr Scott said.

So far during the tourist season, which ends in June, shark behaviour had been ''no different to normal'', he said.

In the footage posted online, two people are shown on the craft filming for the documentary Lair of the Megashark, which screened on Discovery Channel last year, when the frightening encounter occurs.

A voice can be heard on the video saying ''I don't think this is such a brilliant *******, idea you know ... I don't think we can have a boat in there. I really don't.''

Stories abound among residents of sharks bumping vessels, biting buoys and stealing their catch - behaviour they say was not seen a decade ago, the Herald reported.

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