A still from a promotional video for Aquatek Technology's Shark Repelling System.
A still from a promotional video for Aquatek Technology's Shark Repelling System.

Deterrents won't be used just to "placate people’s fears"

UPDATE 2.35pm: SHARK deterrent technology will not be used off the North Coast just to "placate people's fears", a shark expert has told the NSW shark summit at Sydney's Taronga Zoo today.

New shark technologies are also unlikely to be rolled out for trial by summer, according to the Guardian Australia reporting from the summit.

Department of Primary Industries shark expert Dr Vic Peddemors said deterrent devices would only be used "when we are convinced that they work" and could detect or deter sharks from attacking people.

Dr Peddemors noted that one of the most effective shark deterrents - shark nets - had been the "backbone" of NSW's program to protect people against shark attacks.

However Dr Peddemors told The Northern Star last month that the North Coast's "pristine marine environment" made shark nets less than ideal here, due to the deadly impact on other species such as sea turtles.

Dr Peddemors led the recent DPI shark tagging operation in Ballina in conjunction with the CSIRO, which tagged eight white sharks which have since roamed thousands of kilometres.

He acknowledged the human impact of attacks, which while rare, were "traumatic in nature and have a large impact on the victim, family and witnesses".

The Guardian also reported that Bond University Associate Professor Daryl McPhee said there was no "silver bullet" for detecting sharks and stopping attacks.

"There's a number of technologies that are just nearly there, there's a lot of impressive YouTube videos that shows various devices being able to deter a shark but as a scientist that's not a scientifically definitive approach," he said.

"No matter what's used, it will not be 100% effective, a shark spotter's program or new technology will not be able to detect 100% of sharks."

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair acknowledged that shark attacks were a "very emotive" issue, but "we want to make sure that anything we do in this space is based on science… we're not going to leave any stone unturned to make sure we have the best minds on this".

 

UPDATE 11.49am: INVITEES to the NSW Government shark summit have this morning reviewed the results of past international and Australian strategies to prevent human-shark interactions from leading shark experts.

The summit is aiming to select a shortlist of new shark deterrent technologies to trial at NSW beaches.

Speakers at this morning's session included NSW DPI shark expert Dr Vic Peddemors, Geremy Cliff of the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board in South Africa, and Dr Rory McAuley from NSW Fisheries.

Expected to be reviewed is the controversial trial of shark culling which took place in Western Australia after a spate of fatal attacks in 2011 and 2012.

The attendees will also hear current knowledge about shark biology, behaviour and how to mitigate interactions from experts from Australia and the US.

Ballina mayor David Wright, who wasn't invited to the summit, said was hoping "something good" came out of it for the North Coast.

Ideally, that would be a deterrent technology suitable for deployment in our region, and answers about why so many sharks appeared to be congregating here.

"They've got 70 scientists from around the world, they are going to talk about a whole stack of stuff," he remarked.

More information to come.

 

INITIAL REPORT: THERE are four types of technologies planned to be discussed at the Taronga Zoo shark summit on Tuesday, covering at least five products from different companies.

The technologies up for consideration include:

  • Electric deterrent barriers - Aquatek technology
  • Physical and visual barriers -  Eco Shark barriers, Bionic barriers and Aquarius barriers
  • Sonar technologies -  Cleverbuoy detection
  • Satellite and acoustic technology - tagging and real time tracking of tagged sharks.

Which of the technologies being discussed at today's shark summit

This poll ended on 07 October 2015.

Current Results

Electrical deterrent barriers

36%

Physical and visual barriers

38%

Sonar Technologies

11%

Satellite and acoustic technology

13%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Lets take a closer look at what those technologies are and what they do.

1. Electric deterrent barriers - Aquatek technology

Aquatek Technology is a French company that produces a range of products for repelling sharks, rays, and jellyfish, along with anti-pollution booms and provides commercial divers for underwater work.

It's shark repellent system, which it calls the Repel Sharks System, is essentially a series of floating posts that put out an electro-magnetic field sharks find unpleasant and veer away from.

Aquatek says the system has been through four years of testing. It is coupled with an identification system, based off fish finder technology, that allows the user to select particular species, such as great whites, bull sharks, and tiger sharks. If one of these animals strays too close, it is identified and the field turned on. Aquatek says the system can also be used to repel jellyfish, which may appeal in areas affected by box jellyfish and irukandji in Queensland.

Aquatek says its system is also capable of supporting nets, which could be deployed when a shark is detected, ensuring it doesn't flee in the wrong direction when escaping the electro-magnetic field.

2. Physical and visual barriers -  Eco Shark Barriers, Bionic Barriers and Aquarius Barriers

These are essentially shark nets, but move beyond the turtle and dolphin-killing models that have been traditionally used in Australian waters.

The Eco Shark Barrier is a semi-rigid plastic modular "net" designed to act as a wall to sharks (and any other large marine animal) without the danger of entanglement.

The Bionic Barrier, developed by Western Australian company Global Marine Enclosures, follows a similar concept. 

"The Bionic Barrier is not a net: the Bionic Barrier is a solid nylon barrier structure that doesn't entangle marine species," the company says on its website. 

3. Sonar technologies -  Clever Buoy

This is something being developed by telco giant Optus.

The idea is to have sonars hanging from a series of floating buoys that can detect an approaching shark and automatically send an alert to a satellite, which bounces the warning to life guards, who can then clear the beach. The alerts are also sent out on the Google+ network to "relevant audiences".

4. Satellite and acoustic technology - tagging and real time tracking of tagged sharks

No specific company has been listed with this technology. There is currently a project underway by the CSIRO and NSW Department of Primary Industries to tag great white sharks in North Coast waters. However, those sharks are not being tracked in real time.



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