Business lobby enters shark debate

Shannon BochenekSound Telegraph

Rockingham Kwinana Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Solin has called on “elected representatives” to take action to combat the public’s fear of sharks.

“Protection of human life, the lifestyle considerations of people living by the sea and the economic benefits from businesses in the tourism/aquatic sports space is critically important in our community,” he said.

Mr Solin said he knew at least one Rockingham dive business that had closed partially due to the public’s shark concern.

“Fear of increased numbers of shark sightings would have been one of the factors affecting the closure of the business,” Mr Solin said.

Secret Harbour’s Gone Surfin surf school owner Doug Kitchingman said the public had “backed off” from taking surf lessons and Gone Surfin had sustained a significant financial loss on the previous year because local schools had reduced or dropped surfing from their curriculums.

While other factors such as funding did come into play for schools, Mr Kitchingman said one school did cite shark concerns as a main reason and other principals had contacted him to discuss issues about duty of care.

Meanwhile, other local businesses seem to be unaffected or even benefiting from public fear.

Rockingham-based Scubanautics Diving Academy head scuba instructor Hamish Brown said business was going strong and regular clients tended to accept the ocean was “their domain”.

Nearby at Ocean and Earth WA surf retailer and wholesaler, owner Caroline Bates said there was “absolutely” a high level of customer interest in the shark deterrent technology “Shark Shield”.

Shark Shield became eligible for rebate under the State Government’s personal shark deterrent subsidy program last Tuesday and Mrs Bates said she was expecting an increase in sales.

Rockingham Visitor Centre manager Scott Hewitt said he heard “very small mention” of sharks from both visitors and locals.

“I don’t think it affects us from a tourism point of view,” he said.

Mr Solin and Mr Kitchingman both called on the State Government to look at solutions, suggesting the reintroduction of a regulated, sustainable shark fishing industry.

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