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Shark spotters to visit Ballina on Thursday

The Shark Spotters program uses flags to warn beach users of the presence of sharks. (Sea Shepherd)

The Shark Spotters program uses flags to warn beach users of the presence of sharks. (Sea Shepherd)

Two South African shark experts will visit Ballina on Thursday to assess whether local beaches are suitable for the Shark Spotters project.

Shark Spotters project manager Sarah Waries and field manager Monswabisi Sikweyiya will also meet with local politicians, fisheries officers and beach safety groups.

A free community forum will be held at Dunes on Shelley Beach from 6.30pm.

The forum will provide information on the Shark Spotters program, along with advice on how to reduce the risk of shark bite.

In South Africa, the initiative employs 15 – 20 shark spotters at nine of Cape Town’s popular beaches.

The shark spotters scan coastal waters for sharks from an elevated platform during daylight hours, seven days a week.

They use a system of flags to let beach users know whether sharks have been spotted.

A green flag means ‘spotting conditions good, no sharks seen’, black means ‘Spotting conditions poor, no sharks seen’, a red flag means ‘High Shark Alert. Either a shark has been seen in the last two hours, or there is an increased risk of a shark being in the area’ and a white flag means a ‘shark has been spotted – siren will sound. Leave water immediately’.

Strict protocols are in place to warn water users of the presence of sharks and assist them out of the water if necessary, thereby reducing the risk of a shark bite and consequently the associated negative impacts.

The South African Shark Spotters have already visited Western Australia as part of their Australian tour.

They conducted site assessments at 25 beaches in Perth and the South West of WA, and found that five sites were suitable for the program.

They also made time to check out other non-lethal methods currently in use in WA including the Eco-Shark Barrier at Coogee beach and the shark exclusion barrier at Busselton and Dunsborough.

The visit to Ballina follows a number of shark attacks in local waters in recent times.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair has promised a series of measures to deal with the threat of shark attacks, including ramping up shark surveillance.

The measures include installation of observation towers and emergency evacuation alarms, funding for lifesavers to purchase stabilising binoculars and inflatable aerial observation equipment.

 

Non lethal eco-nets are to be installed at two Ballina beaches, and a strict protocol has been developed among emergency service personal to manage shark sightings and attacks.


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