REVEALED: Northern Rivers shark hotspot
NEW drone data has revealed Evans Head to be the hot spot area for aerial shark sightings along the NSW north coast.
Newly released data collected from the Surf Life Saving New South Wales (SLSNSW) drone trial showed the North Coast to be the state's shark hotspot and January to be the most significant month for shark activity.
The results revealed 370 sharks spotted over summer and Evans Head had the most sightings with 58, or 16 per cent of all NSW sightings.
Byron Bay and Ballina also had a significant number of sightings, as did Pambula Beach, further down the south coast.
But collectively, between Tweed Heads and Coffs Harbour 250 predators were seen from helicopters, representing 70 per cent of sightings
The Evans Head drone sighting data did not include tagged sharks detected by the VR4G Satellite Beacon anchored off the surf club at Main Beach.
More than 350 volunteers trained as drone pilots for the trial on the NSW coastline last season.
A total of 370 sharks were spotted by drones over summer, with 42 per cent of those sightings made in January along the NSW coastline, followed by April (21 per cent), March (15 per cent) and February (8 per cent).
Surf Life Saving Australia also trialled a flotation drop device to assist in rescues.
It was the largest drone operation ever conducted in Australia with more than 8000 flights at 20 trial locations along the NSW coast.
The collaborative research project was funded by the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries.
Director Surf-Lifesaving FNC David Field said since beginning his career there had been an increase in shark significant activity at Evans Head.
"During my time in the job there has been two shark attacks at Evans Head - one in the 80s and a great white attack about four years ago," Mr Field said.
"It's definitely a shark hotspot."
SLSNSW branch duty officer Christopher Samuels said the increase of sharks in the area could be "because of green zones, more fish life around or because it was good breeding area for sharks".
"We have to remember we are in their territory and their natural environment swimming and surfing- it is always a good idea of being vigilant and be aware of the possibility of sharks being in that area," Mr Samuels said.
"If you're smart about it you don't swim in your dusk and dawn time frames - clear water is also advised and swimming with a group of people always helps - always swim between those red and yellow flags and follow directions of life savers."
Mr Samuels said aerial drone technology helped lifeguards to assess beach safety for swimmers.
"When you are using a device for an aerial advantage over the water it does make our job a lot easier because it gives us a different perspective over the water," he said.
"When you get that aerial perspective, it makes it clearer to see objects in the water and you can see the conditions a lot easier."