Craig Warhurst

Bay’s biggest attraction no longer free

A $5 ENTRY fee to Tin Can Bay's dolphin-feeding beach may have drawn opposition, but marine advocate Joe McLeod says it is necessary to keep the attraction afloat.

Increased government scrutiny of the conditions of operation for the wild dolphin-feeding attraction at Barnacles Cafe has meant a more professional and monitored approach.

As a result, cafe owner Les Dunstan, whose business bears much of the attraction's expenses despite operating in a seasonal tourist destination, said some of the costs now must be passed on.

Visitors will pay a $5 fee to enter the fenced-off feeding area and will be asked to pay a further $5 to feed the wild indo-pacific dolphins.

Mr McLeod said the entry charge and fencing would help keep the attraction alive and maintain quality.

"If we want to keep it, we have to operate in a more official way than we were before," Mr McLeod said.

"WE have obligations to be more professional, and that costs.

"Now that people pay to participate - even if it is just to take a photo - they're more responsible.

"I think it has improved the whole experience."

He said if operations had not improved, he doubted if the attraction would have been permitted to continue.

Mr McLeod said the tourist attraction was managed better than ever, with participants officially greeted with the history of dolphin feeding at Tin Can Bay and given safety requirements of the activity.

He said a key requirement to protect the dolphins was for all visitors to disinfect their hands before feeding.

Praise for the attraction from university researchers, granted access to the site as part of the government agreement, has boosted Mr McLeod's confidence in the operation's new measures.

Mr McLeod and Mr Dunstan said they had heard reports of opposition to the entry fee from locals, but people were yet to approach them directly with concerns.

Mr Dunstan also spoke out regarding reported complaints directed at the attraction's volunteers, saying they were unwarranted.

"[The price] has nothing to do with the volunteers," Mr Dunstan said.

As for tourists at the attraction, Mr McLeod said he was yet to have anyone protest the cost.

"The tourists I was talking to this morning had no problem with it," he said yesterday.

Mr Dunstan said the fencing played the additional role of protecting the cafe at night from vandals.

He said the vandals had removed and destroyed chairs, smashed light fittings and set fire to the cafe's notice board.

He said some chairs have had to be fished from the water by the Tin Can Bay Coast Guard. Security cameras would be installed at the cafe.

Gympie Times


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