Ongoing safety education and new research will form the key pillars of a community and industry-backed approach to improving safety on Whitsunday waters.
Speaking after an industry and expert Roundtable today, Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner have announced a five-point plan to improve safety on Whitsunday waters.
The plan will include:
- $250,000 towards scientific research into shark prevalence and behaviour in Cid Harbour;
- Maintaining Cid Harbour as a no-swim zone until that assessment is complete;
- A high-profile education campaign to immediately educate locals and visitors about shark safety;
- Development of a broader SharkWISE education campaign, similar to the successful CrocWISE campaign running in North Queensland; and
- Continue to meet with industry stakeholders and experts to develop and progress responses.
Ms Jones said today’s meeting gave the local tourism industry an opportunity to work directly with marine experts.
“We’ve listened to the advice of marine scientists and the local tourism industry and have a five-point plan to improve safety in the waters off the Whitsundays,” she said.
“All the experts agree that education is the key – that’s why, as a direct result of today’s roundtable, we’ve committed to a ‘SharkWISE’ campaign to educate people about the risks of swimming in some locations.
“The recent shark attacks in Cid Harbour were unprecedented and demonstrate that we need to do more to understand shark behaviours.
“That’s why we’ve also committed $250,000 for research so we can get a better grasp on these behaviours.
“We acknowledge the offer by the Prime Minister to assist and request that the Federal Government, responsible for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, match our funding for this research.
“The Whitsundays is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we want to make sure people are as safe as possible when they come to visit.”
Minister Jones, Minister Furner and Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox hosted the discussion, which was attended by representatives from Tourism Whitsundays, local tourism operators, Whitsunday Marine Advisory Group, Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association, Whitsunday Bareboat Industry Association, commercial fisherman, Queensland Police Service, University of Queensland, James Cook University, GBRMPA, Maritime Safety Queensland and Queensland Surf Lifesaving.
Mr Furner said the government’s key message remained the same.
“Today was all about getting stakeholders together to discuss a longer-term solution,” he said.
“Experts put forward compelling evidence about the dangers of swimming in Cid Harbour. As a result, today we’re recommending Cid Harbour as ‘no swim zone’.
“We’ve increased the amount of signage in the area and we’ll ramp up our public messaging to make sure locals and visitors, including Schoolies, are as safe as possible in the future.”
Mr Furner confirmed there was no plan to place drum lines in Cid Harbour because they could not guarantee swimmer safety.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority advised today’s meeting that drum lines and nets could not be deployed without Federal Government approval.
Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox said the council would support the State Government to provide more information to locals and visitors about the dangers of swimming in Cid Harbour.
“A ‘SharkWISE’ campaign similar to the ‘Crocwise’ program is one great outcome from today’s meeting,” he said.
“The Whitsundays is one of the most beautiful places on earth and there are plenty of great places for people to swim.
“We’re working together with the government to make sure we educate visitors about how to safely enjoy their time in the Whitsundays.”
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Natassia Wheeler said today’s discussion had been productive for the local tourism industry.
“Tourism operators can walk away from today’s meeting with piece of mind,” she said.
“We’re committed to informing tourists about how they can enjoy a great holiday in the Whitsundays and stay safe in Cid Harbour.”
Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said tourism operators take their duty of care to their guests very seriously.
“We owe it to our visitors to apply the best knowledge and science to any challenge,” Mr Gschwind said.
“We must be able to inform people accurately and truthfully about any risk they might be exposed to, and provide them with guidance on how to enjoy our wonderful environment safely.”