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October 4, 2023

Shark Watch needs spotters and drone operators

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The launch of Shark Watch in Byron Bay. Jan Gilbert, sitting, and Andrew Nieuwenhof of Shark Watch NSW, with Mayor Simon Richardson at the launch at Tallow beach. (photo Jeff Dawson)
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A sign-up and fundraiser for Australia’s first Shark Watch crew will be held at Belongil Beach in Byron Bay on Saturday from 9am to 1pm.

Shark Watch is a volunteer organisation aimed at providing a real-time warning system to alert ocean users to the presence of sharks.

It is based on a successful South African program, which has been operating in Cape Town since 2004.

The program uses trained spotters and drones to scan the ocean looking for shark activity.

When a shark is sighted within close proximity to bathers/surfers, a warning system will alert those in the water to leave and remain in place until the coast is considered ‘clear’, which means people arriving at the beach will be aware that a shark has been sighted.

Byron Shire Council has committed about $11,000 to establishing a Shark Watch crew in Byron and local organisers are hoping that Ballina Shire Council will also contribute to forming a crew.

Shark Watch spokesperson Andrew Nieuwenhof said Saturday’s fundraiser would be an opportunity for people to see the Shark Watch crew in action.

‘We will have the crew fully set up with drones and screens and we’ll be spotting for sharks,’ he said.

Mr Nieuwenhof said anyone signing up to become a Shark Watch volunteer would receive training.

‘Part of the training program will include emergency response in the event of a shark bite, as well as general first aid,’ he said.

‘Shark Watch will also be involved in public education about particular ocean conditions that may increase the likelihood of a shark encounter, and the important role sharks play in the ecology and health of the ocean.

‘As ‘citizen scientists’ we will provide factual, non-sensationalised information about sharks and shark safety with the aim of achieving the sustainable coexistence of people and sharks in our oceans.

‘We will collect data on shark sightings to add to the information on shark movements, as well as data on other marine wildlife activity that is observed by spotters. All of this helps to build a clearer picture of how sharks and other marine wildlife use our local waters.

‘While Shark Watch is aimed at reducing interactions between sharks and humans, it can never be 100 per cent effective or accurate, and entering the ocean is always at an individual’s own risk.’

The sign-up and fundraiser will be held at Belongil Beach, opposite the TreeHouse in Childe Street.

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  1. Wouldn’t this be a perfect job for someone in a wheelchair? It must be difficult to find employment, especially outdoors, this could be a win win.

    • Yes perhaps search the world for someone that had their legs bitten off by a shark to control the drones. No seriously there must be plenty of unemployed people bored enough to take up the challenge.


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