Ocean Rafting was the winner of the 2017 Australian Tourism Awards.
Ocean Rafting was the winner of the 2017 Australian Tourism Awards. Contributed

Operator encourages tourists to visit after shark attacks

TWO shark attacks in less than 24 hours have made news nationally, but one local tourism operator is hoping that will not deter tourists from getting out on the water in the Whitsundays.

Ocean Rafting owner Jan Claxton said the shark attacks were a rarity in waters around the Whitsundays and it was unfortunate there had been two in such a short time.

"I've been here 20 years and I think there was one other shark attack... , then this happens," she said.

"You can assume it is one rogue shark.

"People die falling off horses and having accidents with cows, but when it is a shark attack it makes the news everywhere.

"I think it is so out of the ordinary it probably won't happen again.

"Just think of the amount of people that swim in the Whitsundays every day. It's thousands."

Today, three drum lines were set up in Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island where Justine Barwick, 46, was bitten by a shark late Wednesday afternoon and a 12-year-old girl was bitten on Thursday.

Yesterday, a Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital spokeswoman said Mrs Barwick was in a stable condition in the intensive care unit, while the 12-year-old was in a critical but stable condition in Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane.

Tourism Whitsundays general manager Natassia Wheeler expressed "thoughts and sympathies" to the victims and the victim's families at this difficult time.

"These incidents are very rare in the Whitsunday waters and we praise the actions and rapid response of all emergency personal involved," Ms Wheeler said in a statement Friday afternoon.

"Tourism Whitsundays acknowledges the Department of Environment and Science are managing the situation and fisheries are currently patrolling Cid Harbour.

"Tourism Whitsundays remains focused on providing our ongoing support to our members and the wider tourism industry and we hope this incident will not discourage anyone from enjoying a Whitsundays holiday."

Mrs Claxton is hopeful the shark is caught.

"They're doing the right thing by netting," she said.

"Hopefully they can catch it."

Mrs Claxton also pointed out the Whitsunday Islands was a big area and the two shark attacks had both happened in one harbour.

"The Whitsundays is a pretty big place," she said.

"Most commercial operators don't go near there (Cid Harbour)."

While her business has not been affected yet by people who had already booked trips cancelling them, Mrs Claxton thinks the flow-on effect will come later.

"I just think we won't get the bookings we were going to get," she said.

"That's where it will hurt."

Coming on the cusp of the school holidays, Mrs Claxton said the attacks could not have come at a worse time for the local tourism industry.


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