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Research & Initiatives

The State Government is supporting a variety of research projects and initiatives to gain a better understanding of shark biology and ecology by implementing (and investigating) various public safety initiatives and making changes to government policy. The aim is to provide everyone with useful information to make informed decisions about their water use.

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Shark Monitoring Network

Shark Monitoring Network

06 November 2013

The Shark Monitoring Network (SMN) is one of the largest and most sophisticated research and public safety projects of its kind, providing vital public safety warnings that may help save peoples’ lives.

The project began in 2009, to see if it was possible to monitor the movements of tagged white sharks off Perth, and to use new satellite-linked technology as an early warning system when tagged sharks swam close to popular beaches. 

Sharks are fitted with acoustic tags which emit a sequence of low frequency ‘clicks’ that give each tag an audible ID number. These unique signals can be detected and recorded when the shark swims within 400-500m of an acoustic receiver. 

Between 2009 and 2016 the SMN collected data from 309 data-recording receivers from Esperance to Ningaloo, including the 25 satellite-linked receivers deployed along the Perth, South West and South Coasts. The seven year shark monitoring research program recorded almost 180, 000 shark detections on these receivers, providing a wealth of valuable data. 

More than 22,000 of those detections were from 64 tagged white sharks. The research showed the movement of white sharks was mostly uncoordinated which makes it hard to predict when humans might encounter them. For further information view Fisheries Research Report No. 273, 2016. Helpful Q&As on the findings are also available.

While the data collection phase of the research has now been completed, the lasting public benefit is the satellite-linked receivers. The receivers will continue to provide safety agencies with near real time alerts of tagged sharks at key locations, enabling beaches to be closed, and providing the public with critical information when making decisions on its water-use.  

In June 2017, the SMN was extended to Esperance as part of the Western Australian Government's shark hazard mitigation strategy, increasing the network to 27 satellite-linked receivers. 

To view receiver locations and explore the data collected, visit our Shark Monitoring Network Research Map.

SMN Research Project 2009 - 2016

The research project used two types of acoustic receivers:

  • Satellite-linked (VR4G) acoustic receivers transmit detection data via satellite before being relayed to public safety officials by the Department of Fisheries Shark Monitoring System. These receivers need fresh batteries and a major service of their buoys and moorings annually. 
  • Data-recording (VR2W) acoustic receivers do not transmit data but store it in the receivers’ on board memory. These receivers are recovered annually so that stored data can be downloaded and the receivers serviced. Many of these are serviced by divers however most of the receivers west of Rottnest are too deep for divers to safely access. Instead, these receivers are retrieved using electronic release mechanisms that allow them to float to the surface and be recovered.

In the Perth metropolitan area, SMN satellite-linked and data-recording acoustic receivers deployed between Warnbro Sound and Ocean Reef, include the Department of Fisheries’ Cockburn Sound acoustic receiver array, and a line of data-recording receivers managed by the Department of Fisheries on behalf of the Ocean Tracking Network.

In 2012, the network was expanded in the south west of Western Australia to include data-recording receivers installed in three lines off Hamelin Bay, Chatham Island and Bald Island. These receiver lines extended from the shore to 200m depth and were placed 800m apart, so that under most conditions they provided a continuous line of detection.

Satellite-linked receivers are located within Geographe Bay, Smiths Beach (Yallingup) and Albany.

Acoustic receivers record the shark’s ID, and the date and time of the detection. Our Tagged Shark Movement videos highlight the type of information which can be developed from the tag detection data that is collected. 

The satellite-linked receivers also provide safety agencies with near real-time alerts of tagged sharks at key locations, enabling beaches to be closed. Members of the public can view this information on our Shark Activity Map.

A collaborative approach

The success of the SMN relies on a close collaboration between Department of Fisheries and CSIRO scientists, Fisheries and Marine Officers and cage-diving operators to tag white sharks in both Western and South Australia. By sharing tag ID numbers with collaborators from the CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship and the South Australian cage-diving industry, we’re able to monitor white sharks tagged outside of Western Australia. This approach also allows other organisations to let us know when their acoustic receivers detect sharks that we’ve tagged in WA. 


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