Introduction

Shark cage diving allows tourists to view sharks underwater at close range from the safety of a submerged cage attached to a boat. In September 2018 the Court of Appeal made a ruling on the activity.

Date:  14 September 2018

On 4 September 2018 the Court of Appeal ruled that shark cage diving is an offence under the Wildlife Act, which means that shark cage diving companies will have to cease their operations.

DOC’s role, under the Wildlife Act, is controlling, managing, and monitoring impacts on great white sharks. We are currently investigating what the Court of Appeal’s findings mean for DOC.

The latest findings mean the activity is now considered an offence under the Wildlife Act and people undertaking the activity could be prosecuted.

Background

Divers view a great white shark at close range from a submerged cage off Stewart Island.
Divers view a great white shark at close range from a submerged cage off Stewart Island
Image: Mark Enarson © 

Businesses offering shark cage diving had been operating unregulated for several years. In 2014 we introduced a permitting system aimed at reducing the risk of harm to great white sharks. 

On 2 June 2017 the High Court released its judgment that DOC did not have authority to issue permits for shark cage diving. Read the decision (PDF, 266K).

This meant shark cage diving reverted to an unregulated activity, as it was before 2014. Permits issued for the season up to August 2017 were voided.

The latest findings, as of September 2018, mean that not only can the activity not be regulated, it is now an offence under the Wildlife Act.

Great white sharks are fully protected under the Wildlife Act and are classified by DOC as in gradual decline.

Shark cage diving had been operating near Stewart Island/Rakiura since 2008 where there is a stable resident population of great white sharks in the waters around Stewart Island/Rakiura. 

In December 2014 we granted permits to two businesses to operate shark cage diving off Stewart Island/Rakiura, valid until August 2016. They were only authorised to work in one site, Edwards Island, 8 km from Halfmoon Bay.

In December 2016 we reissued temporary permits which were valid until August 2017. 

Community concern

There has been strong opposition to shark cage diving from significant parts of the Stewart Island community, as well as from commercial pāua divers. This is largely driven by concerns for public safety.

Because of these concerns, we've engaged in several discussions on risks associated with shark cage diving and intensively and actively manages this activity.  

Research

Previously, DOC contracted an international review of the science surrounding shark cage diving. The review looked at global shark cage diving activities, scientific research and management practices. Read the full CSIRO review (PDF, 364K).

We will continue research into shark movements and numbers around Stewart Island.

Previous media releases

Contact

Report any concerns about shark cage diving to marine@doc.govt.nz.


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