Stopping Shark Attacks With Satellite Tech

Image credit: iStockphoto/USO

In February, the shark attack that killed a 35-year-old swimmer at a suburban Sydney beach was the city’s first fatal one in more than 60 years. But it could potentially have been avoided with smart satellite-enabled technology.

In the aftermath of the death of British expatriate Simon Nellis, it has emerged that Sydney beachside councils may have been slow to implement new smart drumline technology. Trials show that it can effectively deter sharks and take them away from areas with swimmers without having to resort to killing the animals.

Smart drumlines are a new technology that attracts sharks with bait attached to a buoy. A magnet is triggered when the shark takes the bait, which alerts lifesavers and researchers onshore.

A communication unit is attached to the drumline and sends an email and text message via satellite technology within minutes of the shark taking the bait.

The technology was trialed in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Queensland, with most sharks caught released alive.

Since last September, 39 sharks have been caught, and 28 have been released. Traditional drumlines, which captured 77 sharks, saw only 19 successfully released into the water.

The shark program divides the sharks into more aggressive “target sharks,” such as tiger, bull, and white pointer sharks, deemed most dangerous to humans. They are tagged and released further away from the beach in the hope of reducing the immediate risk to swimmers.

Tragically, the technology was not available to intervene in the attack on Simon Nellis, but all Sydney beachside councils have pledged to implement the Shark Management Alert in Real-Time (SMART) drumlines.

In the aftermath of the attack, the program is being sped up, with six SMART drumlines installed the week after the event, with another 15 to come before the summer season ends.

Image credit: iStockphoto/USO