Heightened concerns about shark attacks along the Australian east coast have seen the NSW government launch a trial of sonar shark detection bouys off Bondi Beach.
The trial is part of the government’s $16 million shark strategy implemented following a spate of attacks on the far north coast of NSW over the past 12 months.
The “Clever Buoy” is a joint-venture R&D project involving Perth-based Shark Mitigation Systems, Optus and Google. The buoys use software that can detect the shape and movement of sharks using sonar and alert authorities, such as lifeguards, immediately.
Its proponents believe the sonar system has the potential to be the “clean and green”, cost-effective alternative to other measures such as netting, and drum baiting, which are strongly opposed by conservationists due to the danger of killing other marine life, as well the other high-tech alternative, tagging, which only involves a fraction of the shark population.
Primary industries minister Niall Blair, who describes sonar detection as the “Holy Grail” of shark mitigation, says eight of the devices will be trialled along the NSW coastline, with two already in place at Sharpes Beach and Lighthouse Beach.
“This is a pre-commercial trial of new technology to detect sharks in Sydney,” Blair said.
Others will be deployed off Coffs Harbour, Yamba and South West Rocks, Lennox Head, Kingscliff, Evans Head, Port Macquarie and Forster.
If they perform well, a further 10 will be deployed along the coastline north of Sydney to Forster at a later date.
The units are anchored 500 metres offshore, with the sonar on the ocean floor, with a microprocessor in the buoy analysing any large swimming objects detected. If a shark is spotted, a satellite signal and Google+ are used to alert authorities.
The extended trial aims to confirm the system’s detection capabilities and information flow to shore.
While there have been a number of shark alarms at Bondi recently, the nation’s most popular beach has seen just two shark attacks in the last 85 years – the last one in 2009. A few days before Christmas last year, a 2-metre shark reportedly jumped on a surfer’s board early one morning at the southern end, near the Icebergs pool. The surfer was uninjured.
Here’s the Clever Buoy in action