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Shark Deterrents Or Shark Detection?

By Marcus Braid on November 3, 2015 in News

Photo: Greg Norman

Photo: Greg Norman

Spotters, detection buoys and drum lines with GPS could be trialled on local beaches this summer to help reduce the risk of shark attacks, but some people are cautious over the value of the new measures.

Premier Mike Baird, who spoke at an international shark summit in September, has signalled his intention to find ways to protect beachgoers while being mindful of how marine life is affected by netting.

Waverley Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak said that protecting beachgoers is paramount, but preserving protected shark species is also important.

“Shark detection technologies should be used in recognition of the bigger picture of climate change, ocean warming and industrial overfishing,” he said. “They both affect the traditional food source and predatory territory of contemporary shark species, so they now roam wider.

“A motion I put to Waverley Council a few months ago covered discussions by Waverley Lifeguards proposing the use of drone cameras and satellite linked sonar detection technology.”

However, local big wave surfer Mark Mathews cautioned that “detection is one thing, but deterrent is another”.

“I honestly don’t think I want to know how often sharks swim around when I’m surfing,” he said. “People know too much now about how many sharks are around, whereas they were probably there before, you just didn’t see so much of them.

“I’m interested in deterrents, but it’s then about what sort of negative effects those deterrents are going to have on the ecosystem.”
The technologies include dead shark scent in a can, electrical and magnetic barriers, and camouflage wetsuits. The trials could take place at beaches from Bronte to Byron Bay.

There have been 13 shark attacks in NSW this year, including one fatality, which is up from three in 2014.

“I wonder if it could be seasonal or cyclical, with what’s happening,” Mr Mathews said. “It might be a cycle of where small fish or jellyfish go in close, and next year they might be out further in the ocean and you’ll see less attacks. I’m sure there are way more surfers in the water than there used to be, too.”