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Staying Safe

Even though shark encounters are rare, here are some common sense tips to help reduce the risk of one happening.  

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Beach Safety & Protection Initiatives

Beach Safety & Protection Initiatives

29 September 2016

The Western Australian Government and its partners have implemented a variety of beach safety initiatives to provide protection from the risk of shark interactions.

Beach and Aerial Surveillance 

Surf lifesavers are watching from the beaches, on the water and in the air and public officers are ready to respond to sightings. Swimming between the flags at patrolled beaches means that if a shark is sighted, the information will be communicated quickly to the front line responders and the beach can be closed by lifesavers.

Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) has state wide standard operating procedures for shark sightings, including guidelines on when to clear the water and close a beach, and how long a beach should remain closed.

When swimming at an unpatrolled beach, please remember that Rangers are not always close-by to respond quickly to a shark sighting (particularly in regional areas). So it’s important water users take responsibility for their own safety and check the latest reported sighting and tagged shark detection information on the shark activity map and follow our shark SMART safety tips. 

SLSWA operates two lifesaving helicopter services, the metropolitan based Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter and the South-West Lifesaver Helicopter. The helicopter service is supported by the Western Australian Government and Westpac.

The helicopter service provides many benefits including the ability to directly communicate with the public; when a shark is sighted at an unpatrolled beach, the helicopter will sound its alert siren from the air. In addition, the crew are medically trained and equipped to assist in a real time emergency when needed. 

Details on patrols for your WA beaches can be found at Surf Life Saving WA.

To improve beach surveillance the Western Australian Government funded:

  • 12 new jet skis to SLSWA, providing an additional tool to boost public safety at beaches.
  • Two new life guard stations at Cottesloe Beach providing a vantage point to look out for sharks and other safety hazards such as rips. Similar stations have also been erected at North Cottesloe Beach, funded by the Town of Cottesloe and at City Beach, funded by SLSWA.
  • A drone trial to monitor beaches at a number of metropolitan and regional beaches between November 2016 and January 2017.

The Western Australian Government has further committed $6.7 million in funding over the next two years (until 2018/19) to ensure that SLSWA can continue to monitor and patrol our coastline. The program includes aerial and beach patrols, coordination of service and emergency responses via SurfCom communications centre, a jetski response team and the use of drones to monitor beaches. 

Beach Enclosures

The Western Australian Government has funded a number of protected swimming areas, or beach enclosures to protect swimmers from sharks. Current locations include:

  • Old Dunsborough, City of Busselton – undertaken as a trial between January and April 2014 to test the suitability of beach enclosures in protecting swimmers from sharks. The enclosure extended about 100m from shore and ran parallel with the beach for approximately 300m. A review of the enclosure found that it was successful, providing a cost effective option for a protected swimming area with no environmental impact. 
  • Busselton foreshore, City of Busselton – installed in November 2015. 
  • Middleton Beach, City of Albany – installed March 2016 for a three year trial. 
  • Sorrento Beach, City of Joondalup – installed in December 2016.
  • Quinns Beach, City of Wanneroo – installed in January 2017.

In May 2017, the City of Mandurah was offered $200,000 towards installing a beach enclosure at Falcon Beach.

The City of Cockburn has also funded its own enclosure at Coogee Beach near Fremantle. The enclosure is deployed year round on a three year trial basis to 2017.

Beach Emergency Numbers (BEN)

The Beach Emergency Numbers System, B.E.N. – named in honour of Ben Gerring, is a coding system, designed to improve emergency response times by installing signs with unique numbers at beach access points.  These signs will provide specific location information, vital when emergency services are deployed in the event of a shark sighting or attack. 

The program was initially implemented by the City of Mandurah. In May 2017, the Western Australian Government announced a grants program to provide financial assistance to other Local Governments who wish to introduce emergency response signs along beaches with public access. 

The grant funding will be open to Local Governments between Geraldton and Esperance, and will begin in the 2017/18 financial year. The total value of the program is $1.35 million over four years, and further information will be provided on the application process in coming months. 

Beachsafe App

Surf Life Saving’s Beachsafe app has details for all 3,494 WA beaches, including patrol info (where applicable), hazards and warnings, weather information, shark sightings, rescue stats, beach information and hazard ratings. It is a really useful tool and can be downloaded from the iTunes App or Google Play stores.

Clever Buoy Trial

Clever Buoy is a near shore shark detection system developed by Western Australian company Shark Mitigation Systems.  

City Beach, in the Town of Cambridge was the site of a Clever Buoy trial, conducted from December 2016 to 31 March 2017. A review of the trial incorporating operational, technical and environmental aspects is now underway. 

The system is designed to detect possible sharks using sonar and identification software. During the trial, information from any alerts triggered by the system were relayed to lifesavers. The outcome of the trial will be updated once complete. 

For further information visit Clever Buoy Trial

Legislative Changes

Legislative changes have been made to help reduce the risk of shark incidents by banning activities that may change the behaviour of sharks.

Dedicated shark tourism, such as commercial cage diving, is banned under Fisheries Resource Management Regulations (R.128OA). A ban on using mammal and bird offal and blood for berley for the purposes of attracting sharks has also been put in place under the Fisheries Resource Management Regulations.

Drum line trial 

Following seven fatalities in the three years from 2010 – 2013, a limited number of drum lines were deployed for a three month trial period  between the end of January and April 2014.  

There has been some confusion due to incorrect terminology used in media reports, that this trial was a shark cull. This is not correct.  The program was not a cull, but instead aimed to provide additional protection from the risk of shark interactions to water users at a select number of swimming beaches and surf spots in the metropolitan and south west regions of the state during the high use summer months. 

Following the trial program the Government proposed to set drum lines for a further three years, in addition to the shark hazard mitigation measures already enacted. 

The proposal was designed following a close examination of long-running shark control programs in other jurisdictions, including Queensland and New South Wales, South Africa and Brazil, and included recommendations from a review of the trial program. The three year proposal was subject to the highest level of environmental assessment in the form of a Public Environmental Review (PER), with the PER subject to a four-week public submission process. 

In September 2014 the Environmental Protection Authority recommended that the proposed three year drum line program not be implemented due to a high degree of scientific uncertainty about impacts on the south western white shark population. In October 2014 the Government withdrew the proposal from the Commonwealth assessment process. 

There have been no permanent drum lines deployed off the Western Australian coast since 30 April 2014. 

Further information on the 3 month trial drumline component of the strategy is available in the Public Environmental Review and the Western Australian Shark Hazard Mitigation Drum Line Program Review 2013-14. 

 

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