Dive expert says shark-patting plan has major flaws

TONY Isaacson's plans for interactive shark dives could struggle to find support, even in the industry which he believes would benefit most.

While Philip Hart, owner of Sunreef Mooloolaba, agrees that sharks can be conditioned to interact with people, he says that is a long way from them being cute and cuddly.

And the experienced diver says there aren't many of them hanging around in the first place.

"Interacting with sharks is a pretty specialised thing and there is a long history of it happening in some places," he said.

"As Tony says, it is conditioning. But I'm not sure we would want to encourage sharks to come close to shore on major swimming beaches.

"Sharks have evolved into killing machines but I agree that we don't have to be in their food chain.

"Their noses are sensitive areas and when they are patted in that area they are like a puppy.

"But six inches away from their noses are some pretty impressive teeth."

Sunreef owner Phil Hart at Sunreef in Mooloolaba for the welcoming of Humpback Whales to the Sunshine Coast this weekend Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Sunreef owner Phil Hart at Sunreef in Mooloolaba for the welcoming of Humpback Whales to the Sunshine Coast this weekend Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily john mccutcheon

Mr Hart said he had dived in local waters countless times and had seen very few sharks close to shore.

"I've been out to the wreck (HMAS Brisbane) any number of times and you could count on one hand the number of times I've seen sharks out there.

"You have to go out into the channel between here and Moreton Island - there's a few grey nurses out there."

READ: Down she goes: Reminiscing on 10 years of HMAS Brisbane

He believed the best way to increase dive tourism was to continue expanding the artificial reef around the HMAS Brisbane.

"We are all for development of marine tourism in this region, absolutely. And we will do everything we possibly can to encourage it," he said.

"But the best way is the further development of the marine sanctuary that already exists in the HMAS Brisbane region.

"Whether it's another ship there or car tyres, we can expand the reef and in doing so expand all manners of animals which hang around, including sharks."

Diving the Ex-HMAS Brisbane.
Diving the Ex-HMAS Brisbane. Scubaworld

Mr Hart stressed he was not totally opposed to Mr Isaacson's plan.

"Tony is a good ambassador for sharks. He is passionate about them.

"But there is a line between passion and commercial reality.

"I've patted one, just a reefie (reef shark) but tiger sharks will eat you.

"We don't want people going in with a false sense of security that they are tame like Lassie."


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