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March 8, 2021

Shark spotting trial for Wategos Beach

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File photo of a Great White Shark. (AAP)
File photo of a Great White Shark. (AAP)

A feasibility study for shark spotting will take place at Wategos Beach.

The trial will be carried out by members of Sea Shepherd and will determine whether the location and spotting abilities at Wategos Beach are suitable for a longer term shark spotting program.

The study will examine the impact of morning and afternoon glare, spotting distance from water, changes in visibility in differing weather conditions and levels of water user activity at different times of the day.

Funding for the trial is being provided equally by the state government Tamara Smith, MLA and Byron Shire Council.

Byron mayor Simon Richardson welcomed the announcement.

“It’s great to be able to support an initiative that provides extra security and safety for locals and visitors, whilst also ensuring there are no negative impacts on the marine life, including sharks,’ he said.

‘We were focused on community led, scientifically robust and effective measures to protect our marine environment and ocean goers-and it’s great to be a part of an innovative, intelligent and inspiring solution.

Tamara Smith MP, the NSW Greens spokesperson for Marine and Fisheries and a member of the government’s recent Shark Inquiry said ‘the Cardno Review recommended shark spotting as the best response to shark encounters and an ideal non-lethal shark mitigation strategy yet the government has not explored it as an option in NSW’.

‘I was lucky to hang out with the Shark Spotters from Cape Town a few months ago and I was incredibly impressed and persuaded by their 13 year track record of safety for ocean users in Cape Town,’ Ms Smith said.

‘I am also very persuaded that paid, professional shark spotters are intrinsic to the program.

‘I am thrilled to partner with Sea Shepherd and Byron council to fund a feasibility study at Wategos. ”

National Shark Campaign coordinator for Sea Shepherd Australia, Natalie Banks also welcomed the study.

‘The fact that this study was unanimously approved by the Byron Bay Council shows the progressive and forward-thinking manner of the full council, which hasn’t rested on their laurels waiting for a solution from the State Government to be brought forward, but is looking outside the box for real solutions for their community,’ Ms Banks said.

‘At a time when northern NSW is looking for solutions to shark mitigation in the region, I am personally proud to be a part of offering the community scientific and proven solutions that could potentially be the way forward for Byron Bay.’ 

Developed by Sea Shepherd, the trial responds to the State Government’s independent assessment of current shark mitigation strategies undertaken by the Cardno Review.

This assessment identified a Shark Spotting program, currently used in Cape Town, South Africa as the highest ranked solution.

The program was the only one that met eight assessment criteria including; a whole-of-beach solution, poses no risks to humans or wildlife, would be suitable for NSW beaches, has been tested on white sharks (and a variety of other shark species), has been peer reviewed, and the costs for the program are low.

The scoping study proposes to provide independent feedback on the abilities and limitations of a more permanent Shark Spotting program at this location.

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  1. Low cost – at least $200 per pad per spotter? for say 200 days a year – $40k pa wage for a human. A drone would be more effective – to spot them and alert anyone near them. One flight every 20 minutes….that would be all we’d need.

    Why no drones????

  2. “Why no drones” ???? It takes a human to operate a drone.That means somebody (that is a human) to be on the beach operating the drone.Drones can’t fly in windy conditions or provide constant surveillance of an area of beach for up to 10 hours a day where there is high activity with swimmers and surfers.

    If we were real smart we would train our existing volunteer Lifesavers and existing paid Lifeguards to be trained to spot shark activity from modern designed Lifeguard Towers .

    Imagine that,a well trained human scanning the surf break and beyond for sharks giving advise to beach users and saving drowning victims.They could also be the person who could operate a drone and make announcements over a PA system, minimise response times to emergencies and give first aid.

    Last time I looked, Volunteers Lifesaver was paid ZERO and the existing Lifeguards employed at Bryon were on about $25.00 an hour not $200.00.

    Why not drones ? Yes,drones will have a
    place in the future but for now a well thought out and funded beach patrolling strategy comes FIRST ! That’s what will save lives.


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