Site visits for a potential “Shark Spotters” program have been finalised within Western Australia, where approximately 25 specific beaches were assessed, with a focus on the South-West coast.
Representatives from Shark Spotters in Cape Town, South Africa, were brought over to Australia from a crowd-funding initiative started by Sea Shepherd Australia and No Shark Cull Inc.
Up to five sites, all situated in the South-West of the state were identified as having potential, with three in particular earmarked for a recommended feasibility trail.
Sarah Waries, Project Manager for Shark Spotters stated that site assessments look at elevation, water clarity, sea floor substrate, water depth, surf conditions and angles of sunrise and sunset in addition to other factors, in order to determine if spotting would be suitable in an area.
“It is important to focus resources on areas with a high spatial overlap between people and sharks, in order to provide the most cost effective and valuable service to the community” Ms Waries said.
“There is no one size fits all solution to shark attack mitigation, however in Cape Town the combination of an early warning system, applied scientific research and public education has worked very effectively to reduce the risk of shark encounters and improve water user safety.”
Natalie Banks, National Shark Campaign Coordinator for Sea Shepherd Australia stated that discussions with local government, the public and key stakeholders such as Surfing WA and Surf Life Saving WA were very well received and that the program was overall well supported.
“There is no denying that Shark Spotters have had a very successful history over the past 12 years and it has really been fantastic having the opportunity to share valuable information about what they have learnt over the years.”
“We are now very keen to look at a possible feasibility study at the beaches identified, particularly at Castle Bay, Meelup and Smiths Beach, to identify where exactly the best vantage points are, what spotting conditions are like at different times of the day and what conditions make spotting most suitable.”
The Shark Spotters have also made some recommendations at sites where spotting conditions are not conducive, mainly due to reefy or rocky sea beds, such as the implementation of Shark Attack First Aid Kits at beaches, particularly at remote beaches, as well as signage at beaches stipulating when the last shark sighting was made at a particular beach.
The Shark Spotters are now visiting the East Coast, before returning to Perth to discuss their overall findings with WA’s Premier Department.
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