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Shark fears bite business at dive school
No fears: Dive school instructors Ollie Brown and Grant Newman. Picture: Bill Hatto/ The West Australian

One of Perth's biggest scuba diving businesses has had to offer extraordinary discounts to lure people into the water after an unprecedented spate of shark attacks slashed its profitability.

Perth Diving Academy, which has shops in Hillarys and Balcatta and runs diving courses off Perth, said its business was so badly affected by hysteria over the attacks it was offering the "no chicken special".

Under the deal with the advertising pitch "gutsy divers wanted", customers are credited the $495 cost of the academy's training course for use on later dives.

"With all the bad media about sharks, you would think the waters around Perth are shark infested, with divers being eaten every day," the advertisement says.

"The reality is there are more sharks but the risk of a shark attack is still lower than dying from a bee sting.

"Shark hype keeps people who are chicken out of the water. We don't want chickens, we want keen people who want to go diving."

Simon Jones, a part owner the academy, said the five fatal shark attacks in 10 months in 2011 and 2012 undoubtedly scared people away from diving.

Mr Jones said as diving course participation fell away, turnover plummeted about 25 per cent, costing the academy hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Despite the setback, the 56-year-old said the retail offer appeared to be working and the number of people signing up to the course had returned to normal.

"I can't counter people's fears and all the hype," Mr Jones said.

"All I can do is say, 'yes, there's a risk but it's minuscule, come out, we'll show you how to do it and you'll have a fantastic time'.

"We need to get people in because we know that if we don't get people in doing the courses, you don't sell them the gear, you don't get them out on the boat doing dives and all of a sudden our business, which was doing quite nicely, just dries up.

"Any diving business in Perth that tells you it hasn't had a downturn in the past couple of years is lying to you."