The West

Cull spawns shark-seeing tour
Opportunity: Bill Edgar. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian

As debate raged over WA's shark catch-and-kill policy, Bill Edgar saw the passion in both sides and an opportunity to save his struggling charter boat business.

Using a catamaran rigged with 5cm-thick underwater windows, he plans to take tourists on "hunts" for a close-up view of sharks off Perth's coast.

Mr Edgar said he had not ruled out using baits to attract sharks to his boat while out at sea and give tourists a better chance of seeing the sharks.

He has taken inspiration from South Australia, where thrillseekers can get up close to sharks from a cage, and said the phone "hadn't stopped ringing" since he announced the tours would start next month.

Mr Edgar said the creatures were fascinating to tourists and were often the first thing they asked to see out in the ocean.

"Whether you're for sharks or against sharks, everyone wants to see them," he said.

"You talk to people and they're all rapt in getting up close to sharks and being safe."

Mr Edgar plans to take tourists to some of Perth's shark hotspots, relying on tips from his sources and shark sightings revealed on Surf Life Saving WA's Twitter feed.

His route is a closely guarded secret, but he boasts knowledge of areas where great white sharks haunt regularly and, although sightings are not guaranteed, his website offers visitors the chance to see bronze whalers, tiger sharks and hammerheads.

Since the start of Elizabeth Quay works and dwindling foot traffic on the waterfront, Mr Edgar said he had been forced to scale back his charters from seven days a week to just four.

He hopes shark tourism could bring visitors back to the waterfront and save the business he has run for 30 years.

"The moment (Premier Colin) Barnett started digging, we saw a downturn in traffic by 80 per cent . . . I'm trying to create a new field in an area that's fairly difficult," he said.

Mr Edgar had previously considered legal action, estimating his losses and stress at $2 million. However, he said his business had suffered so much, he could no longer afford to pursue legal action.

The West Australian

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