Increased danger from sharks 'unlikely'

Sharks had never attacked anyone near a salmon farm but that did not mean it would not happen, Department of Conservation official Clinton Duffy said in Blenheim yesterday.

Sharks congregated around salmon farms, Mr Duffy told the Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry considering an application by New Zealand King Salmon to develop nine new farms in the Sounds.

However, it was unlikely the number of sharks in the Sounds would increase if more farms were built.

Sustain Our Sounds chairman Danny Boulton, who runs a dive business in Pelorus Sound, yesterday asked whether more salmon farms would make diving more dangerous.

His organisation opposes King Salmon's application to expand in areas prohibited under the Sounds management plan.

Mr Duffy said at least 14 species of sharks came into the Sounds including potentially dangerous bronzewhalers, which gathered around farms.

The people at most risk of attack were company divers removing dead fish, which sharks would like to eat, he said.

He would not be keen to dive around a salmon farm for reasons including that they were not attractive, Mr Duffy said.

"I can't imagine why anyone would want to dive around a salmon farm unless they wanted to see a shark," he said.

Mr Boulton asked whether sharks around salmon farms could attack his diving customers including school-children.

Mr Duffy said people should treat any shark over 1.8 metres as dangerous.

He would not advise swimming or diving near sharks but the risk of being attacked was overstated.

The people most at risk were spear-fishers holding bleeding or struggling fish, he said.

Roughly two people were bitten by sharks a year in New Zealand, usually in the surf zone.

Hearings commissioner Mark Farnsworth said the word shark attracted emotions, mostly negative. Was the risk more to sharks than humans, he asked.

"There is very little evidence of adverse effects [of fish farms] on sharks but there is no research on it," Mr Duffy said.

The Marlborough Express