Tour Operators Say They're Being 'Silenced' Amid Spate Of Shark Attacks
After a spate of shark attacks, the pristine Whitsundays is quickly earning a new reputation. And many, including The Project team, have been left silenced.
There have been three shark attack on the islands in the last three months -- one of them deadly.
Melbourne doctor Daniel Christidis died after he was attacked by a shark at Cid Harbour two weeks ago.
Seven weeks earlier, Tasmanian woman Justine Barwick and 12-year-old Hannah Barwick were mauled in separate attacks just 24 hours apart.
The spate of attacks is starting to raise red flags.
"When you see one, that’s a pretty chance event. If you look back on the history of that area, the last one was almost a decade ago,” shark expert Culum Brown told The Sunday Project.
“Then you get two in two days and then three in six weeks, that certainly starts to raise red flags.”
Cid Harbour sits between the Cid and Whitsunday islands, about 20 kilometres off the Queensland coast. A large, sheltered bay and a popular spot for yachts and charter boats, it’s quickly feeling the heat.
Tourists have told The Sunday Project they’re fearful of entering the water, and as debate ramps up over a solution, tour operators say they're being silenced.
Local MP Jason Costigan is frustrated Queensland’s Shark Control program does not include Cid Harbour, and wants drumlines -- a technology-driven measure designed to reduce shark bites -- installed off the Whitsundays coast.
“We’ve got these shark nets and drumlines from Ellis Beach, north of Cairns, right through to Coolongatta on the Gold Coast -- nearly 400 drumlines but there’s nothing in the Whitsundays,” he said.
Authorities installed temporary drumlines after the separate attacks in September, which were removed after catching six sharks in a week.
They're proving divisive among the community, but tourism operator Lindsay Simpson isn't happy with the state government’s response.
“Obviously no one wants this to happen, but to pretend it’s not happening, put drumlines in for a week, get six sharks …. and then pull the drumlines out … to just do that is not good enough,” she told The Sunday Project.
Last week, a “roundtable” meeting was held in Airlie Beach to formulate a strategy with local residents and business owners.
But Simpson only found out about the meeting through local media.
“The government is pretending to have meetings where they’re consulting with tourism operators,” she said, telling The Sunday Project she feels “silenced”.
"They're thinking they can control the debate and they're hoping it will all go away."
For this story, the Sunday Project team was planning to travel to Hamilton Island, but was pushed away by the island’s management at the last minute.
Meanwhile, there are fears another attack could be around the corner.
“Hand on heart, I believe something bad will happen again and I think something bad will have to happen again to be blunt before action is taken,” said Costigan.
Watch the full story at 6.30pm on The Sunday Project on Network 10.
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Lead photo: The Sunday Project.