Shark management

In 2015 the NSW Government announced the NSW Shark Management Strategy, a program designed to complement the existing Shark Meshing Bather Protection Program.

The key objective of the NSW Shark Management Strategy is to increase protection for bathers from shark interactions while minimising harm to sharks or other animals.

This is a scientifically driven, integrated strategy involving several innovative approaches to provide the most effective shark attack mitigation measures at NSW beaches. The NSW Shark Management Strategy is an investment of more than $16 million to introduce innovative trials and fund continual projects over five years.

In September 2015, shark experts from across the world met at the NSW Shark Summit and considered an independent review of potential shark deterrent technology (PDF, 4142.53 KB) to be trialed in NSW waters.

Components of the strategy

  • Ongoing aerial surveillance providing more patrols along the NSW coastline.
  • Two state-of-the-art eco-friendly shark barriers to be trialed at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina and Lennox Head Beach. These trials were unsuccessful and were discontinued in August and September 2016.
  • 21 Satellite linked (VR4G) shark listening stations, to provide real-time tracking data of tagged sharks. These listening stations have been deployed at Kingscliff, Byron Bay, Lennox Head, Lighthouse Beach and Sharpes Beach, Ballina, Evans Head, Yamba, Coffs Harbour, South West Rocks, Port Macquarie and Forster, Crescent Head, Old Bar, Bondi, Hawks Nest, Redhead, Kiama, Sussex Inlet, Mollymook, Batemans Bay and Merimbula.
  • Partnership with Surf Life Saving NSW and professional lifeguard associations to refine procedures for shark observation and incident response.
  • YouTube video: Trials of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones). These trials commenced in December 2015 and continued at Ballina, Lennox Head, Evans Head, Redhead and Kiama during 2016 and 2017.
  • Monitoring of emerging promising technology, including the development of electronic shark deterrents will continue to determine their effectiveness and suitability.
  • Additional expert staff to roll out the NSW Shark Management Strategy.
  • Annual competitive grants, which will be advertised and funded to foster further commercial innovation in technologies for detection and deterrents.
  • Expansion of DPI shark tagging to tag more sharks and improve detection and reporting capabilities. This will include more tagging operations off the NSW coast by expert shark researchers over the next five years.
  • Trials of SMART Drumlines along the NSW coast.
  • Funding for advanced university research projects relevant to bather protection, including shark detection or deterrence.
  • More community awareness events to better educate the public about sharks and how to minimise their risk of a shark incident.
  • The popular SharkSmart Mobile App has been updated, to include real-time tracking of tagged sharks on a mobile phone/tablet and provide alerts when a shark is spotted.
  • Follow @NSWSharkSmart on Twitter to keep up to date with shark alerts
  • In response to an increase in the number of shark incidences in 2015/16 on the NSW north coast, the NSW Government's Shark Management Strategy includes a targeted north coast response.
  • The north coast was earmarked as a priority trial site for the deployment of two barriers, at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina and at Seven Mile Beach, Lennox Head. Due to the inability of the contractors to install both of these barriers successfully, the trials were discontinued in August and September 2016.
  • VR4G shark listening stations have been deployed on the north coast at Byron Bay, Lennox Head, Sharpes and Lighthouse Beaches Balina and Evans Head. Shark tagging will continue off the NSW north coast, as will targeted aerial surveillance.
  • A range of SharkSmart material specifically designed for the north coast  including posters, brochures and radio community service announcements have been distributed across the region.

Ministerial media release (November 2015): First shark technology trial underway (PDF, 116.05 KB).

Technology to be trialled

Trials of eco friendly shark barriers at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina and Lennox Head beach were discontinued after both manufacturers were unable to safely and effectively install the barriers.

Lighthouse Beach, Ballina

All barrier construction materials have been recovered from Lighthouse Beach and the beach has been restored to its original condition.

Lennox Head

Works are continuing to restore the beach to its original condition.

DPI has invested in satellite linked (VR4G) shark listening stations. These are receivers that record the presence of tagged animals swimming within a 500 metre radius of the listening station and provide real-time updates of tagged sharks close to key swimming/surfing locations.

Captured information goes straight to a satellite and is then instantly sent to the public and beach authorities via Twitter and the SharkSmart App. This data from the full network of listening stations also provides important insights into the movements of sharks in our waters.

DPI also manages several hundred VR2W listening stations that must be retrieved from the seabed to download data. This retrospective shark movement data provides finer scale information on shark movements and habitat use that will assist in understanding factors affecting shark distribution and their interactions with humans.

NSWDPI undertook a collaborative project with University of Technology Sydney and Shark Mitigation Systems to to determine the ability of  sonar technology to detect White Sharks  and relay information to shore. The trial of ‘Clever Buoy’™ was undertaken at Hawks Nest where White Sharks are known to be present and video cameras deployed within the sonar detection area were used to confirm the presence of White Sharks.

The Clever Buoy and its supporting software successfully identified White Sharks 45% of the time within a 46m range with the length estimates provided reliably close to the lengths estimated by video cameras. The range and accuracy of the data was significantly influenced by the trial design and water depth with the sonar configuration post testing found to be not correctly positioned for the water depth encountered and the shark size smaller than the detection algorithm had been designed for.

Observations of the behaviours of marine animals during the trial showed no evidence that they were affected by the presence of the Clever Buoy system.

Future research and development of the Clever Buoy includes trialling in areas where larger threatening sharks are present and fine tune protocols to calibrate and deploy Clever Buoy for the range of depth and beach conditions experienced in NSW.

View a summary of the project (PDF, 286.73 KB)

Unmanned aerial vehicles, often known as drones, offer emerging surveillance technology that provides aerial surveillance of coastal waters and real-time vision of the area.

DPI is currently trialling the use of UAV's and tethered aerial surveillance platforms in several locations, including the NSW north coast, as a form of shark spotting.

A review on UAV's for Marine Surveys was conducted in February 2015 by the University of Sydney.

A number of trials have been completed at Ballina, Lennox Head, Evans Head, Redhead and Kiama. CASA-certified pilots will fly the drones over a 3.5-4km circuit over the ocean at a height of 60 metres and speed of 40km per hour, with an on-board camera providing real-time vision of coastal waters.

SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time) drumlines differ greatly from traditional drumlines as they are not designed to kill sharks. The state‐of‐the‐art technology alerts a response team when a shark is captured. The team then respond immediately to tag and potentially relocate the shark.

Initial testing of the SMART drumline technology occurred in the Bellinger River, south of Coffs Harbour, in late 2015 with scientists from Reunion Island. Further trials have taken place at several locations along the NSW coast and will continue in order for scientists to determine the best use of this technology.

These drumlines are only deployed when a team is on hand for immediate response.

SMART drumlines have been in use extensively on the NSW North Coast and as required at other coastal locations since December 2015.  Up to 35 SMART drumlines are deployed daily between Evans Head and Lennox Head (weather and ocean conditions permitting).

Ten SMART Drumlines are also being trialled at each of the following locations:

  • Coffs Harbour and Sawtell
  • Forster/Tuncurry
  • Kiama and Shell Cove
  • Ulladulla and Narrawallee

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