The Department of Conservation has imposed strict rules to ensure great white sharks are not harmed by underwater cage diving operations around Stewart Island/Rakiura and the activity is confined to one location to minimise the impact on commercial pāua divers.
DOC has issued two-year permits to two existing Stewart Island tourism businesses setting new rules around how and where they can conduct operations.
Great white sharks are a protected species and about 100 sharks frequent Foveaux Strait each year between December and June. Over the past few years, new businesses have developed allowing tourists to view sharks from a cage attached to a boat.
Concerns have been raised that sharks are being encouraged with the use of bait and decoys to attack cages, causing permanent injury or behaviour changes to the sharks.
Some pāua divers have also expressed concerns that the operations may put nearby commercial divers at risk of shark attack.
DOC says the two year permits it is issuing set strict new conditions that will protect the sharks and minimise potential conflict with commercial pāua operations.
Conditions include a ban on feeding of the sharks or the use of decoys, controls on commercial filming and also restrict viewing to one area off Motunui/Edwards Island, a few kilometres from Stewart Island.
DOC’s Southern Services Director Allan Munn says the activities of operators will be reviewed after a year to ensure they are meeting these conditions.
Allan Munn says shark cage diving is an established tourism business and, when well managed, can help develop a better understanding of this protected species.
DOC consulted with the Stewart Island community, pāua divers and local iwi on the decision.