New Zealand Town Being 'Targeted' by Great Whites
Locals blame shark-diving companies nearby
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 29, 2016 1:44 PM CST
The town of Oban is seen on Stewart Island, New Zealand.   (Wikimedia)
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(Newser) – The locals in the island community of Oban, New Zealand, are used to living with sharks in the general vicinity. But ever since businesses started offering shark cage-diving experiences in 2007, they say the animals have turned aggressive and begun attacking boats, reports the Guardian. Consider this quote from a 72-year-old lifelong resident who rarely recalls seeing a shark up close as a kid. Now "we see them all the time and not just one, sometimes three or four surrounding our boats," he says. "We are being targeted, and it's only a matter of time before they get someone." As a result, islanders have petitioned government officials to shut down the shark operations, reports Radio New Zealand. “It’s like Jaws anonymous out there,” says one local fisherman.

Oban is located on Stewart Island, which is home to just 380 people but a popular destination for tourists—especially those curious to see sharks. Companies under permit from the Department of Conservation lure the fish within a few miles of shore using baited hooks or buckets of chum, then lower tourists down in cages from their boats to see them firsthand. One such company was caught violating its permit by continuing a dive when a shark was agitated, reports stuff.co.nz. "No other shark cage-diving operations operate this close to a tourist resort that is involved with the sea," says the owner of a fishing charter business. One dive operator, however, says that the fears are overblown and that the criticisms have been going on for years. "We've probably become immune to it." (These rare sharks were flocking to Long Island.)