Lonely Planet Writer

New South Wales urged to try shark spotters on coastline

Shark spotters should be tested on the beaches of New South Wales as a way of protecting swimmers and water users.

In New South Wales in Australia, a call has been made to use Shark Spotters which has run successfully in South Africa
In New South Wales in Australia, a call has been made to use the Shark Spotters Program which has run successfully in South Africa Image by Lwp Kommunikáció / CC BY 2.0

The programme, in which volunteer spotters become part of the community-based monitoring system, has proved to be very successful in South Africa for over a decade. Sea Shepherd Australia says that following a review last year, this method was the only initiative ready for trialling in the Ballina area. However, Yahoo 7 News reports that Natalie Banks, the volunteer service’s national campaign co-ordinator, claimed that this recommendation has been ignored by the state government. In fact, she added that everything else seemed to be getting tested ahead of the shark spotting programme.

Two lucky kayakers escape the jaws of a great white shark in Massachusetts. Image by Elias Levy / CC BY 2.0
The attacks have mostly involved great white sharks in Australia over the past few years in  New South Wales . Image by Elias Levy / CC BY 2.0 Image by Elias Levy / CC BY 2.0

In March, the project manager and co-founder of Shark Spotters in Cape Town will arrive in Australia to check the topology of the country’s beaches and see if they are suitable for a similar programme. Ms Banks believes that volunteer shark spotters could be sited on 40-metre-high towers on flat beaches or situated on cliffs where they would available to effectively scan the oceans.

Helicopter monitoring is the most effective way to patrol against shark attacks, according to Ballina Mayor  but it is costly
Helicopter monitoring is the most effective way to patrol against shark attacks, according to Ballina Mayor, David Wright,  but it is costly Image by David Merret / CC BY 2.0

However David Wright, Ballina’s mayor, said shark spotters would only be an aid on beaches with local headlands such as Lennox Head which are sufficiently elevated for the spotters to see the sharks. The other coastlines are too flat, he added. At present, the local council employs the use of helicopters to monitor its coastline which extends for 17 kilometres. Mr Wright said this method is the most effective one provided a local authority can afford it. It is currently considering the use of drones as another alternative in patrolling its waters.

Two new shark ‘ecobarriers’ are to be installed on the NSW north coast as part of the government’s $16 million strategy to protect surfers and swimmers from attacks. A longer 850-metre net at Ballina’s Lighthouse beach will be erected next month with the 700-metre net installed by June at Lennox Head.