THE Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) hopes to capitalise on Port St Johns’ notorious reputation for shark attacks by turning the situation into a positive spin-off for the rural town.
Instead of warning people against going to the Wild Coast town for their beach holidays, the agency plans to encourage tourists to do shark diving.
This was revealed by ECPTA chief executive Luxolo Rubushe following yet another fatal shark attack at Second Beach which claimed the life of a tourist at the weekend. The 72-year-old Austrian victim was part of a tourist group that included his wife. It is believed he was attacked by a Zambezi shark on Saturday afternoon.
“We are exploring and looking at [introducing] shark diving in that area, to almost take advantage of this [problem of persistent shark attacks],” said Rubushe.
“Shark diving would attract tourists who would be escorted into deeper waters, placed in a cage and given the opportunity to see the sharks in their habitat without being attacked. It would attract tourists from different parts of the world,” said Rubushe.
The latest attack was the eighth fatal one at Second Beach in the past five years.
Port St Johns resident John Costello, however, was sceptical saying it would be impossible because the sea in the area was always dirty. “Down this part of the world it is not something that you can market on a day-to-day basis, also because of the Umzimvubu River which is always dirty. You can do it maybe in winter when the sea is clean,” he added.
He said the idea was opportunistic, and claimed there was a company called Offshore Africa Dive Charters which had already been doing shark diving in the area of Port St Johns for a couple of years now.
Rob Nettleton, who owns the company, confirmed yesterday that they had done tests to check if shark diving could be a profitable business in Port St Johns.
“We have been down here for the last four years but due to the low quantity of tourism, it is really difficult to put time and consistency into making it [shark diving] something sustainable. Also because of the Umzimvubu River system which puts a lot of dirty water into the sea.”
The idea seems to have struck a chord with municipal authorities in Port St Johns. Mayor Mnyamezeli Mangqo said it would definitely boost the local economy should it be introduced.
“Tourism is our lifeblood and accounts for at least up to 80% of our economy. Shark attacks have dented our image but it is initiatives like these that will help us reclaim the crown jewel of the Wild Coast” — firstname.lastname@example.org