Shark Diving and Paua Fishery
I have asked the Minister of Conservation to urgently look at the management of shark tourism operators after listening to submissions on the Health and Safety Reform Bill yesterday.
Representatives from Paua MAC 5 Incorporated, which covers the paua areas from Otago around to Fiordland, showed the select committee that the overlap between their commercial operations and shark tourism is starting to cause risks for their divers.
The Paua MAC 5 representatives have not had problems with great white sharks in the past, but the methods used by shark tourism operators to attract sharks – such as using burly and a wetsuit bait buoy are now putting the paua divers at risk.
The Paua MAC 5 submission to the Transport and Industrial Relations select committee showed that due to the methods used to attract sharks, they were less wary of boats and as a result, up to 20 percent of the paua fishery could be off limits to the divers.
From my perspective, makes it difficult for the paua harvesters to carry out their operation safely, and so I have asked the Minister of Conservation to look at these operations which are regulated under the Wildlife Act where they are close to fisheries such as these and to swimming areas.
It also puts pressure on the fishery area itself, as the paua divers have to avoid certain areas that they have re-seeded in the past due to the shark tourism operators feeding burley and chum into the water nearby to attract sharks.
I think both industries can co-exist, but at the moment there are some very valid concerns raised by Paua MAC 5 that need to be addressed.
Annually, 90 tonnes of paua with an export value of $5 million is harvested from around Stewart Island and the greater Southland region, and the industry contributes to the local economies of Bluff and Riverton.
It’s a conversation we need to have now, rather than waiting for something to happen in the water that forces action.