Rapid shark sighting numbers over past 4 years

Shark sightings across popular beaches in NSW have increased, with the implementation of drones to thank for the early warnings.

Last week, Surf Life Saving NSW announced a further funding commitment had been made for a “vital public safety program” which uses drones to monitor for sharks across 50 key locations.

The new $3m funding package from the state government means unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will continue monitoring for sharklike figures in the ocean, from Fingal Head down to Pambula Beach.

SLS NSW public safety manager Brent Manieri told NCA NewsWire the UAVs are able to cover a vast amount of coastline and are providing reassurance to beach users.

“We’re able to proactively pick up a shark that might be in the vicinity, and actively track it and alert beach authorities a lot sooner than we would have previously,” Mr Manieri said.

He said during the 2021-2022 season, nearly 33,000 UAV flights had monitored the coast, with only 65 water evacuations and just 121 beach closures.

Since 2019, there have been 668 sharks detected.

“We actively monitor any sharks along a stretch of beach; they might be heading out to sea, they might be heading away from populated areas,” Mr Manieri said.

“We’ve been able to keep waters open for longer, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction and immediately closing a beach and pulling sometimes hundreds or thousands of people out of the water.

“People are able to know they’re in an area where there is very good surveillance.”

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) also has four rapid response vessels positioned at strategic locations along the coast ready to assist first responders in the case of a serious shark attack.

However, a DPI spokesperson told NCA NewsWire there is no scientific evidence to suggest overall shark numbers are increasing in the coastal and estuarine waterways of Sydney.

“NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) research, captured on SMART drumlines and detections on our tagged shark listening stations, has identified that sharks are present in NSW waters all year,” the department said.

“By tagging and tracking the movements of sharks, we know sharks are not resident to any particular location along the NSW coast.

“All sharks captured, tagged and released on SMART Drumlines, as well as all sharks spotted by drones or detected on our network of 37 tagged shark listening stations, as part of the NSW Government’s Shark Management Program, are reported via the SharkSmart App and Twitter immediately.”

Mr Manieri said the general public can have confidence in what is being done to minimise the risk of a shark attack.

“People are trained to look out for sharks; the public is able to swim knowing they’re being protected,” he said.

“The community’s perception and feedback is that UAV surveillance is one of the most trusted shark mitigation methods.”

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