Diver slams shark cage diving: I'm concerned for kids swimming off the wharf

There are renewed calls for a ban on shark cage diving at Stewart Island.

Some residents claim there are more sharks in the water since tourism operations started. Source: 1 NEWS

Tourists pay big bucks to go shark cage diving around Stewart Island, but many locals aren't happy. They claim there are more sharks in the water since the tourism operations started.

More than 100 residents met New Zealand First MPs, pushing for a moratorium - a suspension of operations until more research is done.

"It's just stupid that they're allowed to tease and torment sharks all day and we're having to change our ways to accommodate two operators," Luke Simeon, a Stewart Island commercial paua diver told ONE News.

Mr Simeon has been a commercial paua diver for 16 years. He's now wary of going around some parts of the island, saying the practice is attracting more sharks.

"Is it safe for me to be diving out there? It's not. And I definitely am concerned about the kids swimming off the wharf now," he says.

The Department of Conservation has enforced new rules around cage diving in the area. It's now restricted to one location around Edwards Island off Stewart Island, while bait feeding and the use of decoys such as fake seals to attract sharks has been banned.

"You only have to look on Discovery Channel during Shark Week and you'll see sharks coming up and mouthing cages, biting them, banging into them, getting scarred," says Brent Beaven of DOC.

One of the island's two shark cage diving operators, Shark Experience operator Mike Haines, says the water belongs to everyone.

"We've got people staying in motels, hotels and eating establishments on not only Stewart Island but in Bluff and Invercargill. At the end of the day it's good for the local economy," he says.

Shark scientist Riley Elliott, says he believes a moratorium on cage diving is not necessary.

"There's ample science around the world to show us that cage diving can coexist safely with water users," he says.