Shark sightings on popular NSW beaches have increased thanks to the implementation of early warning drones.
Last week, Surf Life Saving NSW announced it had received a further funding commitment for a “critical public safety program” that uses drones to monitor sharks in 50 key locations.
The state government’s new $3 million funding package means unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will continue to hunt for shark-like figures in the ocean, from Fingal Head down to Pambula Beach.
Brent Manieri, public safety manager for SLS NSW, told NCA NewsWire that the UAVs are capable of covering a large part of the coast and offer safety to beach users.
“We are able to proactively detect and actively track a shark that may be in the vicinity and alert beach authorities much sooner than we would have done previously,” said Mr. Manieri.
He said during the 2021-2022 season nearly 33,000 UAV flights patrolled the coast, with only 65 water evacuations.
In comparison, beaches were evacuated 121 times in the 2020-2021 season.
Shark alerts are on the rise, soaring from 148 sirens in 2014 to 575 in 2018.
668 sharks have been spotted since 2019.
“We are actively monitoring all sharks along a stretch of beach; They could go out to sea, they could move away from populated areas,” Mr Manieri said.
“We’ve been able to keep the waters open longer, rather than reacting knee-jerk and immediately closing a beach and sometimes dragging hundreds or thousands of people out of the water.
“People can know they are in an area where there is very good surveillance.”
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) also has four rapid deployment vessels strategically positioned along the coast to assist first responders in the event of a major shark attack.
However, a DPI spokesman told NCA NewsWire that there is no scientific evidence that overall shark numbers are increasing in Sydney’s coastal and estuarine waterways.
“Research by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), captured on SMART drumlines and detections at our tagged shark listening stations, has revealed a year-round presence of sharks in NSW waters,” the department said.
“By tagging and tracking shark movements, we know that sharks are not resident at any particular location along the NSW coast.
“All sharks caught, tagged and released on SMART Drumlines, as well as all sharks sighted by drone or spotted at our network of 37 tagged shark listening stations, as part of the NSW Government’s Shark Management Scheme reported immediately via the SharkSmart app and Twitter.”
Mr Manieri said the general public can have confidence in what is being done to minimize the risk of a shark attack.
“People are trained to look out for sharks; The public can swim and know they are protected,” he said.
“The perception and feedback from the community is that UAV surveillance is one of the most reliable methods to combat sharks.”
Originally posted as “Rapid Increase in Shark Sightings”.