DESPITE shark tourism worth just under US$20 million annually to Australia, the tourist region of Gold Coast is apprehensive about embracing the trend.
According to a report in the Gold Coast Bulletin, worries are based on claims shark cage diving operators unknowingly condition sharks to attack people.
Gold Coast Tourism Chairman Paul Donovan told the publication: “I don’t want shark tourism. Let someone else have it. Go to Sea World if you want to see sharks.”
There are also fears of public outrage and the tourism board’s reputation if a swimmer gets attacked. In 2012, the state of Western Australia banned tourism activities that used sharks as attractions.
Southern Cross University researcher Kirin Apps said she only found four activities that focused on shark tourism in Australia, including snorkeling with whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef, cage diving with white sharks off Port Lincoln, South Australia, diving with grey nurse sharks off the east coast and diving with reef sharks at Osprey Reef in Queensland.
Public interest to dive with sharks and for foreigners to get up close with sharks is rife, but it would undoubtedly be a controversial attraction.
In New Zealand, meanwhile, the idea of using burley and baits to attract sharks to an area would potentially change their behavior, causing them to be more reflexive as predators.