Analysis

Is it safe to go back in the water?

25th November 2015
Joe Bush

The TV and movie buffs out there will be all-too-familiar with the threat (if an albeit exaggerated one), of dipping your toe in the water in certain parts of the world. However, beach goers in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, can rest easier in their flip-flops after an innovative new project was announced to monitor the state’s coastline against shark attack using state of the art technology.

The NSW government are to trial the use of drones as part of a shark management strategy. The drones will patrol several areas of coastline where there have been attacks on surfers over the last year, and then feed images back to operators using GPS coordinates. GPS buoys will also be used to alert staff when sharks have been hooked on ‘smart’ drum lines, so they can be tagged and released in a different area – a more humane solution than the traditional lines that have been used in Queensland and Western Australia where the lines are only checked intermittently.

Not only is the technology viewed by the government as a means of increasing safety on the country’s beaches, but also a method of improving marine conservation. The technology has previously been used on Reunion Island, east of Madagascar, and scientists from the island will travel to NSW as part of the trial to assist with the integration of the technology.

In a statement released by the NSW government, Niall Blair, Minister for Primary Industries, said: “There is no easy way to reduce risks for swimmers and surfers. We are delivering on a commitment to test the best science available, including new technologies, as we try to find an effective long term solution to keep our beaches safe.

“These are the first of several trials that will get underway across the state’s beaches this summer as we take an integrated approach to working out a long term solution. Experts attending the shark summit in Sydney spoke in favour of this technology and I’m pleased to announce initial testing will get underway next week.”

The NSW Government has also fast tracked the delivery of two 4G listening stations which will be positioned at Sharpes Beach at Ballina and Clarkes Beach, Byron Bay, to provide real time tracking data of tagged sharks. A further eight listening stations are making their way to NSW and will be installed at Tweed Heads, Lennox Head, Evans Head, Yamba, Coffs Harbour, South West Rocks, Port Macquarie and Forster.

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