This summer, lifeguards and swimmers could receive live updates about sharks swimming off the coast of the southern Illawarra, as the government rolls out its new shark management technology in the region.
At a meeting this week, Shellharbour councillors voted unanimously to support the installation of 10 “smart drumlines” off the coast of Shellharbour and Kiama, which will help Department of Primary Industries (DPI) scientists to tag and track dangerous sharks.
The council said the region has been chosen for the next part of the government’s rollout as “there have been interactions between humans and sharks”.
With the council’s support, the DPI will now consult residents about the program, with the aim of installing the drumlines between November and April.
This is considered to be a key period for increasing public safety “by raising awareness of shark locations and using the scientific data to better manage shark interactions”, the council said.
The NSW Government committed to using the “non-lethal” drumline technology late last year, starting with 25 lines on the NSW North Coast.
The lines are made up of an anchor and rope, two buoys, and a satellite-linked communications unit.
DPI scientists or contractors are alerted to the presence of an animal on the line, and can then attend to tag and release the sharks.
As part of the program, listening stations are also installed at various locations along the NSW coast, allowing for close monitoring of the tagged sharks.
“When a tagged shark comes near the listening station it registers the shark activity providing real time data to a mobile application which is available to the public,” a report to Shellharbour councillors about the new system said.
Data from the North Coast lines over the past six months has show them to be more effective than shark nets at catching the right types of sharks, and safer for other marine life.
The latest marine bycatch data, shows 127 “non-target” animals were found dead in five trial shark nets on the north coast from December to May, including an endangered green turtle.
Only six target sharks were caught - two white, one bull and three tiger sharks - and three were tagged and released alive.
In comparison, 39 sharks have been caught by the drum lines since December.
Most of these (31) were white sharks, three were tiger sharks and two were non-target grey nurse sharks.
One of the white sharks died while on the line, and one was found dead on a beach after being tagged and released on May 7.