Chief drone pilot for Shark Watch, Simon Jardine from Aerobot, brings in a drone.
Chief drone pilot for Shark Watch, Simon Jardine from Aerobot, brings in a drone. Marnie Johnston

A world-first shark spotting proposal revealed

A VOLUNTEER-BASED organisation, Shark Watch NSW, will seek funding from the NSW government tomorrow to roll out a world-first shark spotting service in Ballina and Lennox Head.

The Ballina based organisation, Shark Watch NSW, which has already attracted over 60 potential volunteers in recent months, has completed a funding application proposal.

According to Shark Watch NSW spokesperson Andrew Nieuwenhof, Ballina MP Tamara Smith will present the proposal to the Department of Primary Industry minister Niall Blair tomorrow.

The application for funding is based on successful trails using drones and human spotters.

Mr Nieuwenhof said there was 'no doubt' last week's shark attack on teenage surfer Cooper Allen would have been prevented by the program.

The trials used a crew of four -- one volunteer with binoculars scanning the ocean, one drone operator, a crew member with a laptop or iPad evaluating drone footage, and then a fourth on the beach with a siren.

The model, inspired by a successful shark spotting program in South Africa, has been specifically developed for the North Coast.

It will be the first service in the world which uses both spotters and drones.

Mr Nieuwenhof said while there was no guarantee the funding proposal would be successful, he said it was 'a no brainer' for the government.

"We already have 60 or so volunteers signed up. It would be stupid for the government to not make use of that - at least trial it here.

"The government might have the best of intentions but they are throwing money down the drain. The Eco Barrier was a complete failure and that was $2.6 million down the drain. We are asking for $60,000 for a program we know works.

"The more the government doesn't succeed, the more the vocal minority will call for culls," he said.

If Shark Watch NSW secures the meagre funding for drones and iPads, it is hoped the program would be running by next school holidays.

Shark Watch NSW may be rolled out across the state. "Already there is interest from Newcastle," he said.

The organisation would be very volunteer-intensive. The plan is to implement shark spotters during daylight hours seven days a week wherever there are surfers.

The crew of four will need to be replaced every two hours and the roles would be rotated to prevent spotter fatigue.



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