After a spate of shark attacks off the coast of New South Wales this year, the authorities are turning to technology to try and help protect beachgoers. So far, there have been 13 shark attacks this year alone, one of which was fatal, andup from just three the year before.The situation has sparked great debate on how best to deter the animals from coming too close to the coast and save peoples lives. This week saw the beginning of tests using aerial drones to scout and track sharks.
As part of the AUS $16 million (US$11.6 million, 7.6 million) initiative announced earlier this year, the drones will relay footage back to an operator, including the GPS location of any shark spotted. It is hoped this will give the relevant authoritiesenough timeto warn and protect those most at risk. In addition to the drones, the state will also be deploying smart drum lines, which will hook the sharks andimmediately alert authorities to the catch, who can then tag and release the animals.
The drones will look for sharks from the air, sending images back to operators on the coast. Brian/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Drum lines which are baited hooks strung from floating drums were planted off the coast of Western Australia in 2014 in an effort to cull sharks after an increase in attacks on the western coast. The state was heavily criticized for this move, with many surfers and environmentalists arguing that killing the animals only has a limited effect in reducing the amount of attacks. Furthermore,the drum lines are also indiscriminate, snaring not only the target sharks, but also turtles and sea mammals.
It is hoped that these newer smart drum lines will be more humane. They’re like a baited hook that has technology connected to it so when the bait is taken, a message is sent to our vessels and they’ll attend those lines immediately, explains Niall Blair, the Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water, in a statement. They will then tag and release the sharks that are caught on those. So they’re very different to the traditional drum lines which could have sharks sitting on them for days before they’re checked.
The detectionsystems will also involve the creation of two listening stations, which will be located on the far north of the coast to allow the authorities to track the tagged sharks in real time. Despite New South Wales being the nations most populous state, with many people enjoying the ocean throughout the year, Blair has refused to consider culling sharks and is instead putting his faith in these high-tech solutions.