Permits to be Required for Cage Diving Operations

March 2, 2014

Recent events in Stewart Island have resulted in the Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith, announcing this week that as of the final quarter of 2014, all commercial white shark cage diving operations in New Zealand will require have a permit under the Wildlife Act 1953. The timing of this requirement ties in with the start of the 2014/2015 summer season.

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Until now government has been reluctant to implement permits for cage diving operations as it was believed such regulations would have a negative effect on the industry, however conflicts between Stewart Islanders and cage diving operators has highlighted the need for the growing industry to be properly managed. Commercial paua diving is an important industry on Stewart Island. New Zealand law dictates their work must be done without the aid of compressed air and they must free dive for their bounty. Many are convinced the cage diving operations attract sharks into the area and modify their behaviour.  Their main concern is that the presence of divers in the cages and the use of berley to attract them,  may condition the sharks to think of divers as food.  The cage diving operators argue that this is not the case and point out that local fishing boats actually discharge far more berley than their operations.

In South Africa, white shark cage diving has been in existence for many years with multiple operators.  The question of behavioural modification has understandably also been a topic of discussion there, and although several studies have been on the subject there has actually been little long-term research into this.  Kiwi born shark scientist, Ryan Johnson and Alison Kock published research work in 2006 (South Africa’s White Shark cage-diving industry -is their cause for concern?) conducted in South Africa which looked directly at this issue.  They concluded that, “Conditioning can only arise if white sharks gain significant and predictable food contravene current permit regulations prohibiting intentional feeding of sharks. On rare occasions, indications of positive conditioning have been observed at Mossel Bay (four sharks).  Evidence exists that adherence to permit regulations and infrequent or no feeding of sharks does not promote conditioning, and may in fact cause sharks to temporally ignore chumming vessels rewards.  Thus, conditioning will only arise if operators intentionally and willfully”.   One observation that is made time and time again by cage diving operators (and their customers) worldwide is that in visiting the same dive zones regularly, there is never a guarantee that a white shark will even show up.  It may take a few minutes, or a few hours or none arrive at all.  This fact alone must in some way indicate that ‘conditioning’ to associate cage operators and humans with food is questionable so long as the cage operators do not intentionally feed the sharks or use excessive berley to attract them.

In July 2013 the Department of Conservation published interim guidelines for operators of commercial white shark cage diving operations.  The guidelines were issued to ensure cage dive operators conducted their operation in a manner that ensured the wellbeing of the sharks. The interim guidelines identified some activities associated with cage diving that pose a risk to great white sharks.  Within Appendix B of the guidelines, a table of possible risks in the operation touches on the subject on possible conditioning with respect to throw baits and states only one throw bait should be used at a time and all efforts should be made to not allow the shark to take a throw bait.

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The Department of Conservation had originally intended the interim guidelines to be reviewed and feedback given by operators in 2015, however, the recent visit to Stewart Island by Nick Smith has changed this and permits will now be required by the end of 2014.

References:

Commercial Great White Shark Cage Diving New Zealand.  July 2013.  Department of Conservation Interim Guidelines

South Africa’s White Shark cage-diving industry -is their cause for concern? Johnson, R. and Kock, A. 2006

The effects of shark cage-diving operations on the behaviour and movements of white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, at the Neptune Islands, South Australia. Bruce, B.D., and Bradford, R.W. ; 2012

Effects of a cage-diving operation on the fine scale movement of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias).  Huveneers, C. , Rodgers, P.J., Beckmann, C., Semmens, J., Bruce, B.D. and Seuront, L. 2012

For further information about cage diving and possible behavioural conditioning please refer to the above links.

Tragic Incident at Muriwai

February 27, 2013

We are deeply saddened at the news of the shark incident at Muriwai earlier today that took the life of a swimmer. Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends.
Exact details of the incident remain unclear, but we hope this will change as the investigation continues. From what we know the incident occurred about 200 meters from shore and involved a single shark estimated to be around 12 feet in length, and a long distance swimmer. The shark species remains unidentified at this time. We understand police were quickly on the scene in a launch to recover the swimmer’s body. It is unclear whether the shark is still in the vicinity and the beach will remain closed for a few days while aerial searches are done.
This tragic event is a very rare occurrence in our waters, even though we know sharks to be present all year round.

2013/14 Entertainment books – Buy yours from us

February 20, 2013
Entertainment Book

Entertainment Book

We are pleased to announce we will be selling the Auckland entertainment books for 2013/2014. We are taking pre-orders NOW!!! E-mail us to pre-order your copy at whitesharkconservationtrust@gmail.com.

There are loads of vouchers for restaurants, movies, activities, accommodation and the White Shark Conservation Trust gets a share of the sale price for everybook sold. It’s easy to get your money back and can save hundreds of $$$$ ( you only have to use ot Entertainment book a few times and it will have paid for itself!!!!) – and of course every book sold helps in supporting New Zealand white shark conservation and research. Each book is only $65 (NZD) each – they are great value and make excellent gifts!

Get your book pre-ordered today and look forward to a year of savings!

Marina’s Tagging – The Final Chapter

November 25, 2012
Photo of Marina getting tagged

Marina getting tagged

In February 2011, we reported on the successful tagging of Marina, a 2.4m TL female, in the Manukau harbour.  She was tagged with both a SPOT and PAT tag, and was the first white shark successfully tagged in the Manukau.  We were able to follow her for approximately 2 months as she made her way north, but she was staying so close to the surface, after 2 months she had flattened the battery on the SPOT tag! So, we just had to hope the PAT tag would continue to work.  The PAT tag was set to come off 12 months after deployment, and we hoped she would be close to the location she was tagged so recovery of the tag would be possible.  The tag actually came off up at the Sunshine Coast, Queensland near Barwon Bank  in the end, and was taken by tidal currents over to its final resting place where it was recovered from the dunes at Little Freshwater near Double Island Point – a frustrating situation for DOC as recovery is based on the kind will of anyone that stumbles across it. Read the rest of this entry »

Raffle: Win a cast shark tooth pendant and support the education programme!

October 7, 2012
Mark Stotesbury made and generously donated to the Trust five cast teeth from South Africa that were left by sub-adult shark in a decoy during research work that was being conducted by Chris Fallows (Apex Predators) and Rob Lawrence (African Shark Eco Charters).

Mark cast this tooth in a spin caster mould in zinc and plated with nickel, brass, gunmetal, antique nickel and antique copper.

No sharks were harmed in gaining this unique pendant opportunity, so we are more than happy to offer you the chance to win one!

Mark Stotesbury’s cast teeth in antique copper, nickel, brass, and gunmetal (clockwise from left)

To enter the draw to win a tooth, simply pick a raffle number between 1 and 100.   There is a limit of 5 numbers per member, and each number you choose costs $5.00.  Email/send us your chosen numbers and the entry fund (you can send us a Paypal receipt, or snail mail is fine – no cash though!), and we will log your choice.  We will announce the winners in the next newsletter.The funds from this raffle will be going towards the education programme fundraiser. We are currently raising funds to help schools send classes to Kelly Tarltons to engage in a one day educational visit.  The schools we are raising funds for do not have the financial resources to be able to send their pupils on such educational visits.  We would like to help children benefit from what we believe to be an extremely worth while and highly beneficial day out.  We hope you will feel as we do that finances should not restrict the learning potential of our kids and help us to reach our goal of $7,500 over the next year. Read the rest of this entry »

Western Australia’s Shame

October 6, 2012

About six weeks ago, the Trust wrote an open letter to Norman Moore, the Minister for Fisheries in Australia, urging him not to approve a retaliatory hunt for white sharks in the wake of the death of a surfer. We received a letter back from the Minister, which was not particularly responsive to our concerns. Sadly, our concerns went unheard – the Australian government approved the culling protocol.

Below are images of our open letter and signatories, and the Minister’s response, but before you have a look at those, please first take a moment to sign one of the many petitions that are linked on the Support Our Sharks website here (scroll down to get to the list of petitions). Read the rest of this entry »


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