The NSW Government is trialling measures to make NSW beaches safe, as part of the NSW Government’s Shark Management Strategy.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) conducts research, or partners with other researchers to:

  • investigate shark safety technologies; and
  • research shark biology and ecology to inform future shark safety measures.

The Shark Management Strategy Annual Grants Program and PhD and Postdoc Program has provided opportunities for new and emerging technology and research to be supported by experts outside DPI.

It’s important that people understand how to be SharkSmart and stay safe when swimming at the beach. Download the SharkSmark app for useful tips on reducing the risk of a shark encounter and for the latest advice, alerts and information.

Where in NSW? North coast, central coast, metro, south coast

Trial or research? Trial

NSW is leading the world in trials of shark-management-alert in real time (SMART) drumlines, which are both a shark mitigation and a research tool. Unlike traditional drumlines, the research trials show that SMART drumlines have minimal impact on marine species.

Preliminary trial results show that SMART drumlines are successful in catching target sharks (White, Bull or Tiger sharks), allowing us to tag and release them along with any non-target animals.

The relocation of captured target sharks by the response team and the natural reaction of sharks to move offshore after release for a few months, indicates that SMART drumlines are a useful non-lethal protection tool.

SMART drumlines
SMART Drumline Diagram

Barriers

Where in NSW? North coast

Trial or research? Trial - ceased

DPI trialled two environmentally friendly shark barriers on the North Coast to provide an enclosed shark-free area for beachgoers.

Neither of the two shark barriers could be installed effectively and safely, and so both trials were terminated.

The Aquarius Barrier trial was discontinued after it was unable to be effectively and safely installed. A second trial was discontinued after Contractor Eco Shark Barrier Pty Ltd identified significant installation and maintenance issues.

Where in NSW? North coast, central coast, metro, south coast

Trial or research? Ongoing technology and trial (location dependent)

Aerial surveillance is used to monitor sharks that may be dangerous to swimmers and to record other marine wildlife that will help scientists understand factors that may influence shark movements and distribution.

Aerial shark surveillance from helicopters in metropolitan NSW coastal waters has been in action since 2009 as part of the Shark Meshing Program. Aerial surveys are also being trialled along the rest of the NSW coast as part of the Shark Management Strategy.

If the pilot spots a shark that poses a threat to surfers or swimmers, a call is immediately made the local Surf Lifesaving Club. Information is also available via @NSWSharkSmart on Twitter.

Surveillance
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Where in NSW? North coast, central coast, metro, south coast

Trial or research? Research and trial

Unmanned aerial vehicles, often known as drones, offer emerging surveillance technology that provides aerial surveillance of coastal waters and real-time vision of the area.

Over summer 2018/19 and autumn 2019, DPI is collaborating with Surf Life Saving NSW to trial UAV's at 19 beaches as a shark detection tool, and to assess the extent to which they could potentially become part of the standard beach safety equipment used by SLSNSW and other beach authorities.

Drones have been trialled at Kingscliff, Main Beach Byron Bay, The Pass, Suffolk Park, Lennox Head, Sharpes Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Shelley Beach, Evans Head, Yamba, Coffs Coast, Tacking Point Port Macquarie, Birubi, Redhead, Avoca, Kiama, Mollymook, Pambula, and Tathra.

Drone trials

Where in NSW? North coast, central coast, metro, south coast

Trial or research? Trial and research

DPI is currently trialling 21 VR4G shark listening stations. These are receivers that record the presence of tagged animals swimming within a 500 metre radius of the listening station and provide real-time updates of tagged sharks close to key swimming/surfing locations.

Captured information goes straight to a satellite and is then instantly sent to the public and beach authorities via Twitter and the SharkSmart App. This data from the full network of listening stations also provides important insights into the movements of sharks in our waters.

DPI also manages several hundred VR2W listening stations that must be retrieved from the seabed to download data. This retrospective shark movement data provides finer scale information on shark movements and habitat use that will assist in understanding factors affecting shark distribution and their interactions with humans.

To reduce the risk of an interaction with a shark, surfers should consider using a personal deterrent.

There are several commercially available shark deterrent products but the NSW Government recommends investing in a device that has been independently tested and verified.

Deterrents

Clever Buoy™

Where in NSW? North coast

Trial or research? Trial - now concluded

Clever Buoy™, developed by ASX-listed Australian company Shark Marine Systems (SMS), uses sonar and associated software to try to detect the distinctive movement patterns made by sharks and transmit critical information to local beach authorities.

DPI undertook a collaborative project with the University of Technology Sydney and SMS to explore the ability of sonar technology to detect White Sharks and relay information to shore. The trial of Clever Buoy™ was undertaken at Hawks Nest in Port Stephens, where White Sharks are known to be present. Underwater camera footage within the sonar detection area confirmed the presence of White Sharks.

The Clever Buoy™ successfully identified White Sharks 45% of the time within a 46m range and the length estimates provided were reliably close to the lengths estimated by the video camera footage. The range and accuracy of the data was influenced by the trial design and water depth. Post-testing, it was found that the sonar configuration was not correctly positioned for the water depth and shark size smaller than the detection algorithm.

The Hawks Nest trial showed that the behaviour of marine animals was not affected by the presence of the Clever Buoy™ system.

Where in NSW? North coast, central coast, metro, south coast

Trial or research? Research

The NSW Government’s shark tagging program is now estimated to be the largest in the world.

Tracking sharks is helping DPI scientists to determine their movement patterns and increase our knowledge of shark behaviour.

Shark activity
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Where in NSW? North coast, central coast, metro, south coast

Trial or research? Research

A number of projects are researching shark biology and ecology, to inform future shark safety measures.

Biology & ecology
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Where in NSW? North coast, central coast, metro, south coast

Trial or research? Research

Understanding the relationship between people, communities and sharks is a key component of the NSW Shark Management Strategy.

Social research

Beachgoer information

Download the SharkSmark app for useful tips on reducing the risk of a shark encounter and for the latest advice, alerts and information.

Shark Smart Alert and Advice System

Partner organisation: Byron Shire Council

Funded in 2017/18, this project will develop a shark alert and advice system for all water users in coastal locations in the Northern Rivers. The proposed system automatically and wirelessly relays the information from the DPI SharkSmart app to a solar powered, 4G connected alert poles. This new system will provide bathers with information that allows them to make an informed choice about entering and leaving the water.

Assessing the efficacy of a new long-range electric deterrent to protect beaches

Partner organisation: Flinders University

Funded in 2017/18, a new kind of transducers has resulted in a long range technology employed by the Shark Shield in a new product, the Ocean Guardian, aimed at protecting bathers in large areas, such as beaches. This project will test the efficacy of the Ocean Guardian to estimate the distance from which it can deter white sharks.