7 Dec 2014

Shark cages 'dangerous' for paua divers

2:50 pm on 7 December 2014

Paua fishers are begging the authorities not to grant permits for cage diving with sharks around Stewart Island.

Two cage diving companies have been operating in the waters, but the Government last year changed the rules, requiring them to have a permit.

They are applying for permits now.

A local paua fishing industry group, PauaMac5, said the activity occurred in commercial paua fisheries.

Its chair Storm Stanley said it made the paua divers' work dangerous because the sharks got excited around people, having come to expect they would be fed.

"Try to imagine yourself in a wetsuit swimming around close to where one of these operators is going, you're going to be looking over your shoulder all the time, because you're swimming around, you've got a bunch of sharks that have been wound up and and are very excited and have become more aggressive because they're used to chasing and nudging at the cages and bashing into boats and things like that."

The Department of Conservation, which oversees the permits, said it was aware of the safety concerns and was working on the issue.