SHARK cage diving and shark tourism is not causing shark attacks, according to Andrew Fox of Rodney Fox Shark Adventures, despite comments to the contrary in national media yesterday.
As one of three shark cage diving operators in South Australia, Andrew Fox said the company started by his father, shark attack victim Rodney Fox, was playing a key part in shark research and conservation.
Recent media reports quoted shark attack victim Greg Pickering as saying shark tourism had made sharks more aggressive.
Andrew Fox said he rejected that, and that an often-cited CSIRO report on the issue had been "misinterpreted in the media".
"The report is only about residency patterns at the Neptune Islands, not on dangerous behaviour," he said.
He said restricting days shark tourism operators could berley was a "precautionary principle" and did not mean that berleying caused increases in shark numbers around Neptune Islands.
Mr Fox said that drawing any conclusion from the report beyond showing that sharks were staying longer in the Neptune Islands as part of their migratory patterns was "pure speculation".
"The sharks are not attracted to the islands by the berleying.
"Once they are at the islands, it attracts them to the vessels."
He said the amount of berley in the water was "extremely small" relative to the thousands of seals present on the islands, presenting a much more significant food source for the sharks.
Mr Fox said numbers of seals, whales and dolphins were also important to the presence of sharks in the area.
"Any suggestion that an increase in shark numbers had anything to do with shark diving is based on no evidence."
He said his company's data collection revealed that sharks they had a "long-term history" with were shown to be "less active and aggressive around the boats, and in fact often don't show on the surface."
He said "blood and guts" wasn't used for berleying, instead only tuna products were used, and sharks are not "deliberately fed".
"There is good evidence to show that sharks become de-sensitised to berlying activities over time", which he said his company was monitoring.
He attributed that behaviour to the principle of "negative habituation", which means sharks come to recognise that berley is not an attractive enough food source.