New shark berley policy for cage-diving industry

A cap on the use of berley is part of tighter licensing rules implemented for the shark cage diving industry to future proof the industry and continue to protect the white shark species. 

A Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) spokesperson said the new White Shark Tour Licensing Policy put a stronger emphasis on controlling the use of fish-based attractants.

The spokesperson said some of the updates included new berley limits, a 15-minute review period if a shark consumes or takes bait or collides with the shark enclosure, as well as specific training for anyone involved in the use of fish based berley. 

Of the three businesses conducting shark cage diving tours at the Neptune Islands – Calypso Star Charters, Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions and Adventure Bay Charters – two operate with the use of berley and the other uses “acoustic attractants”.

Before the policy update, there was no limit to the amount of fish-based berley allowed to be used but it has now been cut to a 100-kg daily limit used per licensee. 

Calypso Star Charter general manager and skipper Andrew Wright said on most days their tours used less than 100kg of berley. 

“Our berley use has never been a constant thing… there's plenty of days we go out and the quantities we use are less than many recreational fisherman.”

He said a big positive to come out of the policy update was the 10-year license option – which used to be five years. 

“It gives us a great deal of security and it gives anyone involved in tourism in Port Lincoln confidence that the shark diving industry is here to stay.”

Adventure Bay Charters do not use fish-based attractants and owner Matt Waller said this was the first time the department enforced some “real grounds” on the use of shark attractants. 

“Ultimately the changes are a positive change, and that's what the department is trying to achieve, while maintaining certainty for tourism operators,” Mr Waller said.