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Shark Tourism Banned in Western Australia

July 9, 2012

Natalie Paris, The Daily Telegraph, July 09, 2012

Cage diving with sharks is to be banned in Western Australia following the deaths of four people attacked while in the sea.

The activity is popular in Southern Australia and South Africa but operators will be prevented from setting up businesses on Australia’s west coast for fear of attracting more sharks.

Norman Moore, the fisheries minister for Western Australia, quoted research that suggests cage diving can change the behaviour of sharks.

“I have decided that Western Australia will not be the place for shark cage tourism,” he said, while recognising that the activity can bring in tourism revenue.

He claimed Western Australia, in contrast to Southern Australia and South Africa, had no known areas where sharks congregated.

“Lack of such sites here may result in operators wanting to maximise ground baiting to attract sharks to meet tourist expectations, which may have unwanted consequences,” he said.

There have been four fatal attacks in the area since September. Last month, an Irish expat was attacked while paddling in a "surf ski" kayak in Perth.

Martin Kane, 62, was in the sea with friends when a shark, though to have been a great white, bit at his ski, snapping the kayak in half. He was able to scramble onto his friend's kayak and escaped alive.

In a statement, Mr. Moore has said it would be wise not to take risks with any ventures that “may raise even greater public fears than already exist”.

“The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s research at shark cage diving sites in South Australia found that white sharks in the study area changed their distribution to align with areas of active berleying (baiting) and, while there was no determination from the study about the longer term effects on shark behaviour or outside the study area, I would prefer to take no risks until more is known.”

The state has also set up a Shark Response Unit following the attacks.

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