SMART drumlines

A diagram explaining how the smart drumline works

SMART (Shark-Management-Alert-in-Real-Time) drumlines are one of the measures currently being tested and trialled as part of the NSW Government's $16M Shark Management Strategy.

The state-of the art­ technology differs greatly from the operation of traditional drumlines as they are designed and operated to maximise the survival of sharks and other marine animals caught.

SMART drumlines have an anchor and rope, two buoys, and a satellite-linked communications unit which is attached to a trace and baited hook. SMART drumlines are deployed approximately 500 metres offshore away from swimmers and surfers to allow sharks to be intercepted beyond the surf zone. When a shark is hooked, the pressure on the line triggers the communications unit which alerts DPI scientists or contractors via phone call, email, and text message to the presence of an animal on the line. The team then responds immediately to the SMART drumline alert to manage the animal.

A research tool

SMART drumlines are a valuable research tool. Sharks caught on SMART drumlines can be tagged and released alive, allowing us to collect data about the population of sharks that use NSW coastal environments. This includes their seasonal pattern of movements along the NSW coast. Sharks caught using SMART drumlines and tagged with satellite tags are being detected more than 12 months later, with the longest period between tagging and last detection is 756 days.

A management tool

As a mitigation measure target sharks, White, Bull and Tiger, caught on the SMART drumlines are relocated approximately 1km offshore and released. Intercepting and catching sharks as they travel along our coastline reduces the chances of an interaction with water users.

Preliminary analysis of satellite tagged sharks suggests that they often head further offshore immediately after release (for the first 24-48 h). So in addition to minimising any immediate threat of an interaction with water users, their movement offshore after release further enhances the value of SMART drumlines as a non-lethal bather protection tool.

Furthermore, when tagged sharks pass within approximately 500m of our network of 21 VR4G listening stations DPI provide alerts to the community via the SharkSmart app ( and DPI SharkSmart Twitter account @NSWSharkSmart.

Any non-target animals, i.e. bycatch, is released alive immediately.

Trials of SMART drumlines

SMART drumline trials will take place this summer to better understand how the technology works in different coastal areas and operating environments.

SMART drumlines are set each morning and collected in the evening (weather dependent). They not left overnight.

Information about target sharks (White, Bull and Tiger sharks) caught during the trials will be posted on our SharkSmart app and Twitter @NSWSharkSmart so you can keep up to date with what we’re catching.

At the end of each trial, we will provide an overview of the results on the website.

See previous trial results:

Read our list of frequently asked questions (PDF, 782.68 KB) (FAQs) to learn more about SMART drumlines or find out more about trials in your area below.

NSW Newcastle Region Trial

A 3 month trial of SMART drumlines will take place across Newcastle beaches from 1 February – 30 April 2019.

SMART drumlines will be placed at Stockton, Nobbys, Newcastle, Bar, Dixon Park and Merewether beaches, located near existing mesh nets to compare how this new technology performs.

For more information on the trial, read our fact sheet (PDF, 278.06 KB).

NSW Sydney Region Trial

A 3 month SMART drumlines trial will take place in northern Sydney from 10 February – 12 May 2019.

SMART drumlines will be placed across two areas at:

  • Barrenjoey to Newport beaches at Palm, Whale, Avalon, Bilgola and Newport; and
  • Dee Why to Manly beaches at Dee Why, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff and Manly.

Visit our community drop-in stands

Come along and speak to DPI staff, ask questions, see a SMART drumline and understand how it works.

  • Saturday, 16 February
    • Avalon Surf Club
      8:30am – 11am
    • Newport Surf Club
      1:30pm - 4pm
  • Sunday, 17 February
    • Palm Beach Surf Club
      8:30am – 11am
    • Freshwater Surf Club
      1:30pm - 4pm

For more information on the trial, read the Barrenjoey to Newport fact sheet (PDF, 352.34 KB) and Dee Why to Manly fact sheet (PDF, 346.98 KB).

Proposed trial of SMART drumlines in Bega Valley Region

The community survey is now closed. Results will be available shortly.

NSW North Coast Trial

Trials of SMART drumlines have been undertaken at multiple locations on the NSW North Coast by DPI scientists since December 2015.

Up to 35 SMART drumlines have been deployed daily between Evans Head and Lennox Head (weather and ocean conditions permitting) by Contractors since December 2016 (see table below).

NSW North Coast SMART drumline data

Cumulative Totals of Animals Caught in the Northern NSW SMART Drumline Trial since December 2016 (includes data up to end of December 2018).

Table 1: Cumulative total of target shark species caught on SMART drumlines since December 2016 at Ballina-Lennox Head and Evans Head. Note, all sharks, except for one White Shark was released alive; one White Shark died before release at Ballina-Lennox Head, while one White Shark was found dead on Airforce Beach, Evans Head on 12 May 2017 after being tagged and released on 7 May 2017.

Common Name

Ballina-Lennox Head

Evans Head

White Shark



Tiger Shark



Bull Shark






Table 2: Cumulative total of non-target species caught on SMART drumlines since December 2016 at Ballina-Lennox Head and Evans Head. Notes: the Loggerhead Turtle was tangled in the trace (but not hooked); a Common Blacktip Shark was found dead on the line after an alert at Evans Head; a Black Marlin was found dead on the line after an alert at Ballina-Lennox Head;

Common name

Ballina-Lennox Head

Evans Head

Spinner Shark



Greynurse Shark



Dusky Whaler



Whaler Shark - unidentified



Loggerhead Turtle



Shortfin Mako Shark



Common Blacktip Shark



Sandbar Shark



Black Ray



Smooth Hammerhead



Black Marlin






Trials at other locations in NSW

Six month trials using ten SMART Drumlines have been undertaken each of the following locations:

Coffs Harbour and Sawtell – October 2017-February 2018

Forster/Tuncurry - October 2017-February 2018

Kiama and Shell Cove – December 2017-May 2018

Ulladulla and Narrawallee - December 2017-May 2018

Researchers visited the five trial areas above (Ulladulla-Narrawallee, Kiama-Shell Cove, Forster-Tuncurry, Coffs Harbour-Sawtell and Ballina-Broken Head) and conducted community focus forums to gain insights and evidence of community sentiment to assist with government development of shark-related policies. The main findings (PDF, 1687.03 KB) addressed three questions:

  1. What are attitudes to and awareness of SMART drumlines?
  2. What are attitudes to and awareness of the SharkSmart App and the Vr4G listening station?
  3. What are attitudes to and awareness of shark mitigation strategies generally?

How successful are SMART drumlines?

Our DPI Shark Tagging Team is having promising success tagging White, Tiger and Bull sharks using SMART drumline technology while it is also proving effective in catching target species with minimal bycatch and mortality. The initial trials of these SMART drumlines demonstrated their ability to capture sharks and trigger the system with instant alerts.

They have proven to be four-times more effective than mesh nets on the North Coast during our six month trial earlier this year with minimal bycatch of non-target animals.

DPI will continue its research to fine tune this gear for use in Australian conditions. This involves testing different gears (hooks, trace lengths and trace material), bait types to maximise catch rates of target shark species only, and videoing the activity of animals around SMART drumlines before and after capture using underwater cameras.

Frequently Asked Questions