28 June 2005

Australian fishing group attacks shark dive fee plan

There has been a mixed reaction to a NSW Government plan to introduce a fee to dive with grey nurse sharks in marine parks.

As part of its campaign to protect the endangered species, the Government wants to introduce a $20 fee per diver.

All diving with the grey nurses would be under the supervision of commercial operators.

The NSW Fishing Clubs Association has condemned the move, claiming it is a smokescreen to ban all activities in marine parks.

But a commercial diver based on the north coast, Peter Hitchens, believes the tax is a good idea and another way of protecting the shark.

He says his only concern is how the revenue would be spent by the Government.

"I feel all divers up the coast would be very keen to contribute to something if it's going to...help the shark out - personally I'd like to see where the money would go to and what help it's going to give the shark," he said.

The fee would apply to 10 critical habitat sites along the NSW coast, including those in South-West Rocks, Byron Bay, Forster and Seal Rocks.

The NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, says the money raised by the fee would contribute to the ongoing costs of research and breeding programs for the grey nurse.

It is believed that less than 500 of the sharks remain in NSW waters.

Mr Macdonald says the exact cost and the means of administering the fee will be determined in consultation with dive operators and other stakeholders, but a date for implementation has yet to be set.

"It would be used exactly for what I'm saying, that is research and supporting programs for the grey nurse shark on those sites, and that is the absolute guarantee that I give," he said.

"That we will be doing further research into the survival of this shark and this money will be...dedicated to research and development."

Source: www.abc.net.au


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