Sharks a positive for tourism, not a negative

Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren has thrown her support behind ideas to develop shark science-based tourism in WA explored at a public forum in Perth yesterday (30/3/2014) on alternatives to shark culling.

“The Barnett and Abbott governments justified making an exemption to environmental laws to enable drum lining by citing the importance of tourism to WA’s economy, and suggesting that shark fatalities in recent years had jeopardised that,” Ms MacLaren said.

“However this was pure make-believe, as Tourism Western Australia’s statistics show that both interstate and international tourism numbers increased between 2012 and 2013, including in the holiday and leisure sector.

“At yesterday’s forum we heard from a number of WA businesses who have developed sensible, effective measures that could be immediately implemented and make more people safe in the water without resorting to a shark cull; however in each case, these businesses have received no support when they have approached the State Government.“We also heard from the inspirational Sharon Burden, whose son Kyle was taken by a great white shark off Bunker Bay in 2011.

Sharon explored the idea of shark eco-tourism, whereby a shark interpretive centre would showcase information about our world class shark tagging and acoustic tracking system; the latest science on sharks; spectacular underwater footage of sharks that is emerging all the time; and provide opportunities to get involved in and sponsor acoustic shark tagging and tracking.

“As Sharon demonstrated, we have an opportunity to make WA world-famous for our knowledge about sharks and shark hazard management – rather than being globally infamous as is the case currently – and at the same time support the tourism economy.

“Another speaker yesterday, Ocean Ramsey, a shark biologist and surfer from Hawaii, showed how ineffectual shark culling in Hawaii was as a safety measure and how Hawaiian authorities have discovered much greater benefits in developing shark eco-tourism.

“Meanwhile, there are much smarter and effective ways we can increase people’s safety than drum lines, and adapting Capetown’s Shark Spotters program – much like the old shark lookout towers that we used to have – to WA is another good way we could do this.”