Rogue shark tourism companies putting peoples’ lives in danger

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New Zealand – Southern dive operators say the Government has done nothing to keep people safe from cowboy shark tourism companies operating in Foveaux Strait, despite repeated requests to take action.

Southern Aqua Adventures owner Mike Haines said Maritime New Zealand was supposed to have got the operators together this year to form a code of practice for the shark-cage dive industry, but nothing had been done.

Cage-diving operators who work off the south coast are worried the unregulated industry could lead to cowboy operators coming to the Foveaux area and putting peoples’ lives in danger because they do not know what they are doing.

Mr Haines had obtained the Australian code of practice, but that was as far as he could go by himself, he said. “It is beyond my control, I can’t do anything.”

Shark Dive New Zealand owner Peter Scott said he had also been trying to work with government departments, such as the Conservation Department, Department of Labour and Maritime NZ, for the past three years to get some form of regulations in place, but with no success.

“No-one will take responsibility until someone is killed. I guarantee it – it is frustrating.”

During the past few years one or two boats had been operating shark-cage diving in the Foveaux Strait, but from this summer he expected at least three boats and he feared cowboy operators could start up in the future, he said.

A Maritime NZ spokesman said preliminary discussion had begun between the Ministry for the Environment, Fisheries Ministry and the Department of Conservation about getting a code of practice, but nothing had come of that.

Maritime NZ wanted to put in place a code that required an appropriate standard for cages and deploying them, he said.

He was unsure how long that would take, he said.

“We can understand people are concerned, which is why we are trying to develop this code of practice alongside industry.”

A Department of Labour spokesman said the activity normally fell under the jurisdiction of Maritime NZ, but in special circumstances it could be covered by the new Adventure Activity Regulations, which came into force on November 1.

The regulations require commercial adventure tourism and outdoor education operators who provide activities that are designed to deliberately expose participants to a managed risk of serious harm, to undergo a safety audit and be registered within three years.

The shark-dive season begins next month and runs until June.