Shark Cage Diving

My questions are to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, regarding the expansion of shark cage diving sites.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 15:15 :47 ):

1. Are burley and baiting at the additional sites being considered?

2. Will the minister outline what scientific monitoring occurs as part of shark cage diving operations?

3. How much does DEWNR receive annually in licence fees?

4. Will the minister publish the full licences after they are approved on 1 July?

5. Was the minister's department instructed to embrace this proposal because of the enthusiasm of the Minister for Tourism?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 15:16 :38 ): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions. In 2014, cage diving with great white sharks attracted over 9,000 people to the Eyre Peninsula, I am advised. Its popularity has grown by over 10 per cent per year for the last three years and it now contributes over $11 million to the state economy and supports approximately 70 jobs.

Shark cage diving takes place at the Neptune Islands (Ron and Valerie Taylor) Marine Park, which is one of Australia’s main aggregation areas for great white sharks. Shark cage diving in the Neptune Islands Marine Park is just one fantastic example of how marine parks can provide opportunities for ecotourism and help support regional economies.

This government has and will continue to work with shark cage diving operators. That is why we are extending licence terms for each of these operators from the current term of five years to a term of ten years. This will provide operators with the certainty they need to attract finance to grow their businesses. It is expected that this initiative will have many flow-on benefits to small businesses involved in the tourism, transport, hospitality and retail industries by attracting more people to the Eyre Peninsula region.

On 2 February 2015, a great white shark was attacked, I am advised, by a killer whale at the Neptune Islands and operators reported a lack of shark sightings for the following six to eight weeks. I understand that sharks have now returned to the area, with a few individuals spotted in mid-April. My department received a proposal from the shark cage diving industry to lessen the impact of this event by allowing operators to access alternative sites. I am advised that a public consultation process to determine views on the proposal opened on 31 March 2015 and closed on 10 April 2015. I understand that a total of 61 submissions were received.

A significant level of opposition to the practice of shark cage diving was expressed in submissions. As a result, I am advised that shark cage diving tour operators are currently re-evaluating their plans and are expected to decide whether to refine their proposal and proceed with broader public consultation. I am advised that due to the lack of support from the broader community, one of the operators, Calypso Star Charters, has withdrawn from the industry proposal entirely. It is up to the shark cage diving industry to now determine whether they would like to proceed with a revised proposal to the South Australian government. In relation to the Honourable member's question about licence fees collected by DEWNR, I will have to take that question on notice and bring back a response to the chamber.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 15:19 :07 ): Supplementary question: will the minister also commit to providing the conditions of licences after they are approved on 1 July?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 15:19 :18 ): I will have to take that question and my answer under consideration.

8 September 2015

In reply to the Hon. J.M. LENSINK (5 May 2015)

1. The total amount of licence fees paid by the shark cage diving industry varies each year depending on the number of tours undertaken. In 2013/14 a total of $249,000 in license fees was received from the industry. This is commensurate with the cost of managing this industry.

2. The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) is developing a revised policy for shark cage diving which will set the regulatory framework to ensure the activity is managed in a responsible manner consistent with obligations under State and Commonwealth Law. This policy will be publicly available.