A business in Bluff which brings tourists up close and personal with great white sharks has got a new lease of life after the Supreme Court ruled cage diving is not an offence.

The Supreme Court has set aside a ruling from the Court of Appeal, deeming shark cage diving an offence under the Wildlife Act.

Shark Experience takes people out onto Foveaux Strait, attracts great white sharks using bait and chum, and then lowers divers into the water protected by a metal cage.

But the Court of Appeal had deemed that exercise an offence, linking it to the hunting or killing of a great white shark, which is illegal.

Mike Haines runs Shark Experience, and said while he lures great whites to his boat, he does not hunt or kill the sharks.

He said the Supreme Court ruling is a major boost for his business.

“That’s what your customers want. International tourists come to New Zealand, some specifically to see a great white,” he said.

“They don’t want to come here and find that the activity is illegal and there’s only a small chance of seeing a great white, they want some amount of assurances.”

 Haines said the cage diving season runs from December until June, but the Court of Appeal ruling hurt business last year and he shut up shop in March.

He said the coming season should be better.

While the Supreme Court said cage diving was not an offence, it did not alter the Court of Appeal ruling around cage diving being under the definition of “hunt or kill”.

It said the act of luring sharks to the cage is aligned with hunting, which includes pursuing or disturbing wildlife.

This article was originally published on RNZ and re-published with permission.

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