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Byron Shire
July 1, 2022

Shark filmed among surfers at Byron Bay

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Footage of a shark swimming among surfers at The Pass in Byron Bay has emerged on the eve of a major announcement regarding a shark spotting program.

The video, posted to Youtube by Derik Broshar, of Iowa, shows a small shark swimming among 20 surfers for about a minute, before leaving the area as a surfer catches a wave and surfs over the top of it.

It has emerged just as Byron mayor Simon Richardson is set to make an announcement tomorrow (Friday) at Cosy Corner, Byron Bay, supported by a shark spotting crew.

The trained spotters will be using a drone, drone monitor and spotters to scan the ocean looking for sharks.

The spotters are members of Shark Watch, a volunteer group that was set up in June this year following a visit from representatives of a South African shark-spotting program.

Since then, Shark Watch has recruited nearly 60 volunteers but has been unable to begin operations due to lack of funding, despite submissions to both Ballina Shire Council and the NSW State Government.

Byron Shire Council has rejected offers from the state government to install shark nets along the coast.

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)

Shark Watch founder Andrew Nieuwenhof said the initial plan had been to set up volunteer crews at beaches between Ballina and Lennox Head.

‘However our long-term plan is for local communities to establish their own Shark Watch teams up and down the coast,’ he said.

Shark Watch uses a combination of drones and human spotters with long-range binoculars. As the drone flies over a pre-established flight path, one crew member monitors the vision from the drone camera.

At the same time a team member scans the ocean with binoculars, and a beach liaison team member is available to answer questions from the public and administer general first aid. This means when a drone is down for a battery changeover, there are always eyes on the water.

Mr Nieuwenhof said trials had also tested spotter fatigue, and a system of rotating team crew members had been established (based on aviation security screening protocols) to ensure peak performance over a two-hour shift.

When a shark is sighted within 300–500 m of surfers/swimmers, the Shark Watch protocol is to sound a siren to alert those in the water to leave and hoist a warning flag, which will remain in place until the coast is considered clear so people arriving at the beach will be aware a shark has been sighted.

‘This is a proven, non-lethal method of shark control,’ Mr Nieuwenhof said.

‘The program has been operating successfully in Cape Town, South Africa, since 2004.

‘In that time, more than 2000 shark sightings have been recorded, but with so much shark activity there have been only two shark incidents, in both cases, after warnings were ignored.’

A vital part of the Shark Watch program is that volunteers will be trained in emergency response in the event of a shark bite.

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. Good incentive…. but not the best choice of methodology. Rather than using drones, it makes far more sence to use a cost effective manned craft such as a Gyro. Gyro’s have already shown they present the most cost effective approach in putting human eyes in the sky. The problem with a Drone is they have limited field of view and rely on eyes to spot an object within the limited scope of view.

    A person in a Gyro can scan and spot objects in the water far more effectively and accurately.

    Further a Gyro can have a Siren mounted to alert people immediately.

    This approach was trialed back in 2009 and 2010… very succesfully….

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