Aussies to use drones to keep track of sharks

SYDNEY • Drones will circle popular swimming spots in eastern Australia and "listening stations" track tagged sharks as part of a new strategy announced yesterday to keep beachgoers safe after a spate of bloody attacks.

The country has one of the world's highest rates of shark attacks, with 13 in New South Wales this year leaving one dead and seven injured, threatening the beach tourism industry.

In response, the nation's most populous state, which has ruled out culling sharks, unveiled a five-year plan to address the issue.

The state's primary industries minister Niall Blair said the multi-faceted approach followed advice from experts attending a recent shark summit in Sydney and community consultation.

The wide-ranging A$16 million (S$16.2 million) plan to protect swimmers and surfers, while minimising harm to sharks, will see the trial of drones to provide real-time vision, while boosting helicopter surveillance.

The tagging of sharks will be stepped up, sonar-detecting buoys deployed and 20 "listening stations" built at known hot spots using 4G technology to allow tagged animals to be monitored. The real-time information will eventually be available to the public on a SharkSmart mobile app.

A Japanese surfer died in February after his legs were torn off by a shark and there have been 12 other serious attacks up and down the more than 2,000km-long New South Wales coast.

Experts say attacks are increasing as water sports become more popular and bait fish move closer to shore, but fatalities remain rare.

Part of the NSW funding will also be used to continue researching new technologies, including the use of electrical barriers powered by wave energy which emit low-frequency pulsed signals to deter sharks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline 'Aussies to use drones to keep track of sharks'. Print Edition | Subscribe