In an attempt to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Sydney’s sharks in time for summer, one state government in Australia has gone high-tech.
New South Wales’ A$16 million shark strategy to protect swimmers and surfers, announced in Oct. 2015, includes 4G listening stations, a shark-tracking mobile app and Clever Buoys.
Using sonar to detect the impressive creatures, the Clever Buoy devices’ software can assess whether an object’s size and swimming pattern indicates a shark’s presence and then transmit that information to lifesavers or other authorities on land.
On Sunday, NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair announced the government would be launching a research project with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to assess the technology’s efficacy.
“The information gathered from this research collaboration will help us understand this advancing technology for shark species, and how we can use it to give NSW beachgoers the best available protection,” he said in a statement.
“We’re trialling sonar, as well as other new technologies including smart drumlines, drones and listening stations, as we look to new and innovative ways to better protect swimmers.”
To conduct the four-week trial, a buoy will be stationed offshore at Port Stephens. Underwater video cameras will record footage, which can then be compared with the shark data gathered by the Clever Buoy to confirm its accuracy.
UTS marine biologist William Gladstone, who designed the trial, told Fairfax Media the location was a known shark nursery. “It is recognised as a nursery ground for juvenile great white sharks and aerial surveys have confirmed it is a congregation site,” he said.
“If it works effectively and reliably, you could deploy a number of them to cover the beach entrance with sonar beam. The message would go back to the lifeguards if a shark enters, and they would decide what to do.”
The new trial follows an eight-week test at Sydney’s most famous beach, Bondi, where a unit was stationed 500 metres offshore.
Developed by Shark Mitigation Systems, also known for making loudly patterned wetsuits that are intended to deter sharks from approaching divers and surfers, the Clever Buoys are able to pick up the presence of any sharks previously caught and tagged by the government.
The initiative follows a spate of shark attacks on the NSW north coast. The attacks have seen some community members pitching for an increase in traditional shark nets, while others view the nets as a serious environmental hazard, that tech like the Clever Buoy could potentially replace.