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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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Shark sightings, emergencies and responses

Shark sightings, emergencies and responses

23 January 2014

Government agencies, businesses and individuals are all part of the important shark detection, monitoring and response network.

We can all play a part by: 

Keeping informed of the latest reported sighting and tagged shark detection information by viewing the Shark Activity Map or by following SLSWA twitter.

Reporting shark sightings to Water Police on 9442 8600. 

Report all shark sightings as soon as possible to ensure effective response procedures. Include:

  • Date and time.
  • Location: be specific; provide the beach or landmark name, closest suburb or town and distance from shore.
  • Shark species (if known) or distinguishing features.
  • Estimated size (use a vessel or other visual marker for size comparison).
  • Your contact details for follow-up, if needed.

Observing beach closures advised by your Local Government Rangers or Surf Life Saving WA.

Shark sightings, emergencies and responses

Shark information comes from several sources: sightings by the public, Surf Life Saving WA helicopter or beach patrols or other agencies using the water. Information on tagged shark detections from the State’s shark monitoring network also provides real time alerts when a tagged shark swims close to a beach where a receiver is located.  

When a shark is located, the information gathered from the shark monitoring network, the Surf Life Saving Helicopter patrols and the general public all provides the best information to the community and response agencies. 

Reported sightings and tagged shark detections are displayed on our real-time shark activity map, can be found on the SLSWA Twitter account and are sent by SMS to response agencies allowing beaches to be closed where possible. 

Surf Life Saving WA provides frequent updates on its helicopter beach patrols and shark sightings via Twitter.

Department of Fisheries,  Department of Transport, WA Police, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Rottnest Island Authority, coastal Local Government Authorities (ranger services) and the frontline of beach safety – Surf Life Saving WA – all play their part in keeping swimmers safe.

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 to the front line responders and the beach can be closed by lifesavers.

When swimming at an unpatrolled beach, please remember that Local Government 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. Where a shark is sighted by Surf Life Saving on an unpatrolled beach, the helicopter will sound its alert siren from the air.

Emergency management

In all shark sightings and incidents, the Water Police act as the first point of call and initiate the first response.

WA Police is the Hazard Management Authority for marine search and rescue in Western Australia. The Water Police’s role is to receive calls and coordinate search and rescue operations from their base in North Fremantle.

If a serious shark incident occurs, WA Police will act as the lead agency.

Sea search and rescue operations are undertaken with FESA Marine Volunteers, Department of Transport, Surf Life Saving WA, and local government authorities.

Surf Life Saving WA

SLSWA is the lead beach safety agency, and patrol many of our beaches with volunteer and paid lifeguards. They will sound beach alarms, clear the water and close beaches if required, following a shark sighting or incident at a patrolled beach.

SLSWA also has statewide 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.

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

Local Government Responses

At unpatrolled beaches, Local Government beach inspectors, Rangers or security may respond to information of a sighting or an incident and close beach car parks, put up closed signs or inform water users.

Remember these staff are usually not stationed at beaches full time, and may not be able to attend immediately. In regional or remote locations a response may not be possible. So it’s a good idea to check for the latest information available on the shark activity map and take responsibility for making a smart decision about your water use.

If beaches are closed following shark sightings, signs are normally put up by Local Government authorities.

Legislative changes

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

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