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Shark-spotting drones to protect NSW beachgoers

Image Credits: NSW Government Website, Press Release

Under a new $8 million strategy for shark management, drones will patrol 34 beaches across NSW. This will be in addition to the 35 SMART drumlines deployed along the north coast.

The new approach to shark management is based on five years of scientific research into shark behaviour and the most effective ways to protect beachgoers.

Drone devices are now capable of flying thousands of kilometres and can automatically detect the size and species of a shark.

Other measures will include:

  • community awareness and education programs
  • 21 shark detection stations along the NSW coast
  • ongoing shark meshing on 51 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong.

The Minister for Agriculture said the number one priority is keeping people safe at the beach.

“While no government can ever fully reduce the risk of shark attacks at our beaches this new program is backed by world-leading research and will provide the best in modern protection methods to our coastal communities,” the Minister stated.

‘SMART’ stands for Shark-Management-Alert-In-RealTime. SMART drumlines consist of an anchor, two buoys and a satellite-linked GPS communications unit attached to a hook baited with one sea mullet.

A triggering magnet is attached to the communications unit. When a shark takes the bait and puts pressure on the line, the magnet is released alerting the boat crew and DPI scientists that there is an animal on the line. Once alerted, the team responds immediately (within 30 minutes) to tag and release the shark or other marine animal.

SMART drumlines are set every morning (weather dependent) approximately 500m offshore at a depth between 8-15m of water. They are collected at the end of each day and are not left overnight.

SMART drumlines are located around 500 metres offshore in 8 to 15m of water. They are positioned well away from shore and are set to intercept and catch target sharks as they travel along our coastline, reducing the chances of an interaction with water users. They are deployed by an experienced team of contractors and/or DPI researchers.

Trials of SMART drumlines

Trials of SMART drumlines have been undertaken at multiple locations on the NSW coast by DPI scientists since December 2015. These trials are undertaken to better understand how the technology works in different coastal areas and operating environments.

SMART drumlines are set each morning and collected in the evening (weather dependent). They are not left out overnight.

SMART drumlines are new technology that allow target sharks to be intercepted beyond the surf break; once caught, they are tagged and relocated 1km offshore.

‘Target sharks’ are White, Bull and Tiger sharks as they are the species mainly involved in shark bites in NSW. Sharks tagged in the trials will allow DPI and the community to monitor shark movements along the NSW coast.

The NSW Shark Program aims to increase protection for beachgoers whilst minimising harm to sharks and other marine life.

The Program in 2020/21 includes the most effective and popular components of the Shark Management Strategy, including drones, SMART drumlines, and listening stations. The Program also includes the existing Shark Meshing Program using shark nets and helicopters between Newcastle and Wollongong.

OpenGpov Asia has previously reported on other innovative measures taken to manage human-shark interactions including high-tech ones.

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