Twenty “smart drumlines” will be deployed off the Illawarra and Shoalhaven coast, as part of a state government trial aimed at further protecting beachgoers from sharks.
The lines – to be installed from August – will allow the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to tag and track dangerous sharks.
Ten smart drumlines will be trialled between The Farm at Killalea and Easts Beach, Kiama.
A further 10 smart drumlines will be tested between Ulladulla and Narrawallee, in the Shoalhaven.
The smart technology rollout follows the successful use of drumlines on the state’s North Coast and complements the five VR4G shark listening stations floated off Kiama, Sussex Inlet, Mollymook, Batemans Bay and Merimbula last year.
As was the case with the listening stations, the regions’ inclusion in the smart drumline program was determined using historical data on shark attacks, aerial surveillance and beach use.
The lines will be baited daily and deployed about 500 metres from shore, weather permitting, until mid-2018.
Contractors and DPI scientists are alerted when a shark is caught. The shark is then tagged, relocated offshore and released.
Two tags are used, if conditions permit – an internal acoustic tag that’s detected when a shark comes within 500 metres of a listening station, while a tag on the shark’s dorsal fin allows it to be tracked via satellite.
NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the smart drumlines were the “future of shark detection and mitigation”, with a six-month North Coast trial this year finding the drumlines were five times more effective than mesh shark nets.
Mesh nets caught seven target sharks (including three white sharks), while 25 smart drumlines caught 37 target sharks (including 31 white sharks) in the same period.
The “target sharks” include white, bull and tiger sharks.
“This is the first time this [smart drumline] technology has been used in Australia and we’re seeing fantastic results, that’s why we’re rolling it out to other parts of the state,” Mr Blair said.
“Everyone in NSW deserves access to this technology; it doesn’t matter if you’re on the South Coast or the North Coast, you’ve now got that coming to a beach near you.
“These smart drumlines have a role to play, not just in our tagging program but also in intercepting sharks before they get to the beach.”
The expanded smart drumline program will see 50 lines added to the 35 already in use on the North Coast.
Shellharbour councillors voted unanimously to support the smart drumline rollout at a meeting last month.