Dive boss objects to $20 sharks fee
By CHRISTIAN STANGER
DIVING in New South Wales waters will become an expensive activity in some areas if a new proposal is passed by the state government.
Minister for Fisheries Ian Macdonald has drafted a proposal that, if passed, will charge divers a fee of $20 per day to dive in marine park areas with a vision to protect the endangered grey nurse shark.
The proposal states that the fee will be charged on diving in all marine parks, which caters for more than 600 kilometres of NSW coastline and encompasses the popular local dive spot of Cook Island.
Kirra Dive On The Tweed owner, Paul Matlock, finds it a distressing issue and has predicted falls in business if he has to charge an extra $20 per person to dive in the area.
"We don't have a great diving market here anyway, but if we increased the fees to dive on Cook Island I don't think many people will bother," said Mr Matlock.
"Besides, there is no need to protect grey nurse sharks where there are no grey nurse sharks."
Mr Matlock admits there are places further south of the Tweed in desperate need of this kind of registration, but maintains that Cook Island does not require it because of the absence of endangered species. If it was put into place, he said administration of the new law would be a major problem.
"I would definitely be up for any legislation that will increase the numbers of grey nurse sharks, but it's unneeded in this area, and besides, it will be a nightmare to administer."
Mr Matlock claims if people are educated about the grey nurse shark, the fee would not be needed, and should someone encounter a grey nurse, they will know to respect the shark's space and know how to treat the situation.
"We conduct diver education programs which will certainly help people in this sort of situation," said Mr Matlock.
"It helps people identify fish and they learn not to use flash photography with grey nurses because they are cave-dwelling sharks."
Mr Matlock claims the ocean is starting to be treated like a theme park and a money-making device by the government, which is not the way it should be.
"The ocean is about freedom, and it's an Australian institution and it's starting to be run like a theme park.
"It's all around us and it's about time they left it alone."