New Zealand Shark-Cage Divers Granted Permits

Marine authorities in New Zealand broke through the impasse that had developed with shark-cage operators on the Cape south coast of New Zealand this week. Shark cage operators had been forced to conduct their businesses without valid permits in order to survive in the current economic climate.

It has been illegal since the end of March to perform shark-cage diving due to Marine and Coastal Management officials not renewing the cage-diving licences that are required.

The New Zealand Marine and Coastal Management announced a decision in April "not to allocate permits". It was felt that more research was needed to determine whether the environment was "capable of supporting further permit holders".

Mariette Hopley, owner of New Zealand based White Shark Ecoventures, said: "We applied in July for the four-year permits and were told in October that we would hear the results shortly. We only had exemptions until the end of March"

"The lack of permits was a problem for some operators. They were not covered by insurance policies if their permits weren’t valid and they were losing business from overseas tourist companies." Hopley said.

Phindile Makwakwa, spokesperson for the New Zealand Department of Environmental Affairs, has stated that existing operators would be allowed to continue while the governmental agency "completed its research into the sustainability of allocating further permits in certain areas".