WA government says shark-spotting drones better than personal ‘shark shields’

Drones for detecting sharks in Australia

[Editor’s Note: The three-month trial will begin next month.]

This post originally appeared on http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-09/shark-drones-to-be-trialled-at-perth-beach/7916498.

A shark-spotting surveillance drone will be used to boost beach patrols in Western Australia’s South West in a three-month trial set to start next month.

Fisheries Minister Joe Francis said the $88,000 trial, part of the Government’s shark mitigation strategy, would allow Surf Life Saving WA to purchase and operate several drones along the Perth metropolitan coast and South West.

The drone will be equipped with high definition cameras which will stream live vision back to surf lifesaving staff.

“Drone technology has advanced significantly in recent years and it makes sense to test if it can be used effectively to make our beaches safer,” Mr Francis said.

“It’s important any responsible government adopt evolving technologies to help keep people safe.

“It will be flown in different areas over different events over the next three months and we will assess the successfulness of that.”

Mr Francis said the drones would send images in real time which would be monitored and then beaches would be alerted if sharks were present.

The drones would not be flown all day every day, they will be used by lifesaver patrols as necessary at various beaches in Perth and the South West.

SLSWA Lifesaving services manager Peter Scott said the drones would add another layer of shark protection strategies including beach and helicopter patrols.

“We know there’s not one single thing that mitigates totally against sharks, it’s a broad range of strategies,” Mr Scott said.

The drone will be used at surf carnivals and other community events at local beaches from November to January 2017.

Mr Francis said future funding for the program would depend on the result of the trial.

Shark-spotting drones have also been trialled in New South Wales.

‘Shark shields would protect surfers’

Opposition leader Mark McGowan said drones were worth trialling, but is pushing for a $200,000 trial to subsidise 1,000 shark shields, an electronic device that can be mounted on a surfboard that emits a pulse that repels sharks.

Fitting a shark repellent device to a surfboard

Mr McGowan said 12 of the past 14 people taken by sharks in WA waters were surfing or diving.

“We need to provide assistance for those people so that they can take precautions for their own safety,” he said.

The idea of shark shield subsidies came from Rick Gerring, whose brother Ben was killed by a shark earlier this year.

“I’ve spoken to surfers and divers and a lot of them aren’t aware of these products,” Mr Gerring said.

He said research had proven the device worked and it was important to get that information out to surfers.

“Hopefully we can get people out there to trial these units and try to dispel any myths about them, more people will take them up and we can protect more surfers and divers.”

Headshot of Rick Gerring.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said he would not support the subsidisation of shark shields for individuals.

“When it comes to subsidising a commercial, individually-worn safety product, my view would be that that is not the role of government,” he said.

“You should not be paying tax to subsidise the individual safety product for different sports.”

Mr Francis said it was a “shallow offer” but Mr McGowan said the Government already subsidised various sports.

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