Aerial surveys can keep swimmers and sharks safe

Tuesday, 15 Sep, 2020

A new study has found that drones have the potential to contribute to effective shark bite management strategies that do not require culling sharks or killing other animals as by-catch.

This new study from Southern Cross University looks at “developing the use of drones for non-destructive shark management and beach safety.” The study’s author Dr Andrew Colefax has used drones fitted with artificial intelligence technology to track more than 100 great white sharks along the coast of New South Wales.

In his report, he says there is an increasing need to address human-wildlife conflict in ways that support conservation. However, with current approaches, this balance is seldom achieved. 

Photo: Jake Parker

“Shark bites are a well-known human-wildlife conflict, which has presented many management challenges. White (Carcharodon carcarius), bull (Carcharhinus leucas) and tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier) sharks are responsible for the majority of shark bite incidents, both in Australia and globally. Traditionally, addressing perceptions of shark bite risk from these species involved lethal approaches (e.g. mesh nets and drumlines). However, social attitudes are changing towards having greater conservation sentiment, and the cost to wildlife of lethal strategies is increasingly criticised. Therefore, there is widely acknowledged need for a reliable alternative to mitigating shark bites that does not impact marine wildlife. Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) may contribute to a solution that reduces shark bite risk to a socially acceptable level." 

According to the study, overall, drones have potential to contribute to effective shark bite management strategies that do not require culling sharks or impacting bycatch species commonly affected by lethal strategies, and due to the rapidly advancing development of drone-related technologies, the utility of drones for reducing the risk of shark bites can be further improved upon. Read the full study

It’s vital that we ensure the safety of beachgoers as well as protect sharks and their key role in ocean health.

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