Sea Shepherd Australia
Shark Defence Campaign
Around the world, and even in other Australian states, shark mitigation strategies that do not harm delicate marine ecosystems are being used. Sea Shepherd supports non-lethal technologies guided by science to both increase beachgoer safety and protect ocean life, such as the four examples listed below.
Aerial drones can serve as an important tool for reducing the risk of shark bites on our beaches when in the hands of beach safety experts. Flying autonomously or piloted, drones can monitor beaches by scanning for sharks with image recognition software.
Shark-detecting drones are used at New South Wales beaches as part of that state's shark management strategy, allowing for real-time monitoring of popular coastal areas.
Sea Shepherd is advocating for a move to equip Surf Living Saving branches with drones from Government grants. Such a program would:
-be managed by those that are already experts in beach safety
- utilise proven technology, and
- be flexible enough to cover flagged beaches and surf breaks.
Aerial drones also provide more certainty than any other method in determining if a shark has proceeded away from an area, thus allowing a well-informed decision to allow swimmers back to the water. This would provide a positive story for tourism and importantly, not harm sharks or other marine wildlife.
Unlike shark nets, physical barriers are available that form a complete enclosure from the seabed to the water's surface. These barriers can be deployed where wave energy is low to medium and effectively enclose sections of the beach from marine life without entangling or killing them.
An example of this is the Eco Shark Barrier, designed in Western Australia. These barriers have been deployed for several years at three different locations in WA.
Another design from Western Australia is the Aquaris Gen 2 Barrier. This barrier technology has been designed to catch zero-bycatch and has been designed to be used at beaches with higher-energy waves.
Personal Protection Devices
Many different technologies are currently available to protect individual beach users, including swimmers, divers and surfers. Typically, they employ an electromagnetic field around the user, which can deter only sharks based on their unique physiology.
Many of these technologies are expensive to produce, test and trial to scientific standards. Therefore, Governments have a role to assist in at least the scientific testing and trialling phases. Subsidies go a long way to helping reduce unit costs as the technologies become affordable on a wide scale.
The Western Australian government offers a $200 per person per device rebate for personal deterrent devices. These devices have been independently tested and scientifically proven to reduce the risk of a white shark interaction.
Currently, these approved devices are:
- Ocean Guardian FREEDOM+ SURF
Personal deterrent rebates are an easy way for governments to support and empower beachgoers to be more personally responsible for their safety no matter where or how they engage with the ocean. This approach can significantly benefit local developers, businesses and, of course, end-users.
Education and outreach about shark behaviour are fundamental means of helping protect swimmers and should be part of any mitigation methods. By knowing that sharks are more active in certain places, like river mouths, and at dawn and dusk, the potential for encountering a shark can be minimised - helping to keep our beaches safer and protecting sharks.
Sea Shepherd recommends signage programs to educate the public on shark behaviour and the low risk of shark-human interactions. Understanding the different risks associated with different species and conditions is key to this.
Don’t know where to start to learn more? Check out this Australian Guide to Surfing with Sharks or visit NSW SharkSmart.
It’s important to remember that no measure, or a combination thereof, will guarantee 100% protection when you enter the ocean, be it from sharks, rips, or the multitude of animals and hazards that make up the ocean environment. When choosing to enter the ocean, we must remember that we each take personal responsibility.