Monday, December 26, 2005

Fear of sharks affects diving industry

ADELAIDE'S scuba diving industry is being slowly crippled by the growing fear of shark attacks.It will launch a "fightback campaign" in the media and at shopping precincts in the new year, telling divers it is safe to enter Adelaide's deep waters.

Glenelg Scuba Diving says numbers joining its learn-to-dive classes have recently dropped by about 50 per cent and its experienced dive sessions are now half full.

The company conducts about eight large group dives a week at or near the Glenelg tyre reef, where marine biologist Jarrod Stehbens was killed by a shark while scuba diving in August.
This followed the death of Nick Peterson, who was killed by a great white at West Beach last December.

The diving industry woes coincide with concerns by Holdfast Bay Council Mayor Ken Rollond that beachgoers may also avoid the water if shark sightings increase, affecting local seaside economies.

Glenelg Scuba Diving instructor Von Milner said shark hysteria was hurting the diving industry.
She said the Glenelg dive business would have closed its doors if not for the booming sales of its shark shield devices, which cost $600 each.

"Our learn-to-dive classes have dropped by more than half, which is a huge amount," Ms Milner said.

"Normally, over December and January, we would be training about 100 people per month – it's less than half that now."

Ms Milner said there had been an over-reaction to recent shark sightings, creating a shark paranoia.

"We're all in this mad panic about telling everyone where the sharks are, but the sharks have been there for years," she said.

"When you send up helicopters to look for them, then of course you're going to find more.
"All you're doing is scaring people out of the water for no good reason.

"The biggest problem is the perception."

Ms Milner said the Diving Industry Association would launch a fightback campaign early next year to reassure people that scuba diving was safe.

Mr Rollond said he was concerned the fear of the deep water might extend to the shallows off Glenelg if shark sightings continued to increase.

"Whether the beach is looked upon at this stage as a risky place and people will drift away from it – that may happen," Mr Rollond said.

"But I think we have to face reality and that is that deep water seems relatively risky right now, but in shallow water there's no evidence it's more dangerous than it was two or three years ago.
"From what I'm hearing, there's still plenty of shark sightings.

"The fact that's happening, I would try and find an alternative pursuit (than scuba diving).
"As far as the dive people are concerned, that's a risk they will have to address themselves."


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