On shore, children donned cardboard shark hats and watched a local theater company perform a shark-related play, while conservationists sought to educate visitors about the mighty predator. Gansbaai – or Goose Bay – is an unassuming town of a few hundred people about two hours from Cape Town. It lacks the chic stores and smart hotels of nearby Hermanus, famed for its whale watching. But Gansbaai claims that its great whites – the only type to survive in the frigid local waters – are closer to the shore and more accessible than those at resort areas in California and Australia, which also have thriving shark tourism industries. But the industry has a bad image. One person is killed by a shark every two years in South Africa. Experts say the number of shark-related incidents will probably increase because more people are surfing, kayaking and swimming than before, but many local residents say that the cage-diving industry is to blame. A report last year from experts at the World Wildlife Fund South Africa and government conservationists said there was no evidence linking attacks on humans and the industry. But tour operators were warned to stick to the rules and not to provoke sharks into aggressive behavior. GANSBAAI, South Africa – With clear waters and a high concentration of great white sharks, this sleepy fishing town has become the self-proclaimed capital of cage-diving, or plunging underwater in a sturdy cage for a close-up look at one of nature’s greatest predators. But the multimillion-dollar industry is increasingly the target of local critics who say it is teaching sharks to associate people with food by luring them to boats with hunks of bait. So shark-tour operators hosted a Great White Weekend festival to persuade local residents that there is no link between attacks on humans and the industry that has transformed their town into a draw for adrenaline junkies. Suspended in underwater cages and gasping with amazement from boats, local residents were treated at cut-rate prices to the spectacle of lithe creatures gliding elegantly through the clear waters of Shark Alley, named for its unusual density of great white sharks attracted to a nearby colony of 40,000 seals. Operators attract sharks – which have a powerful sense of smell – with a mixture of blood and fish remains, a practice known as chumming, and they encourage sharks to stay near the boat by dangling a large fish in the water. In Gansbaai, eight companies have government permits to operate shark cage-diving and spotting tours. A code of conduct states the shark must not be harmed or rewarded with food if it comes to the boat.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!