More re­search key to best shark pro­tec­tion

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - By JON BAS­SETT

UNIVER­SITY of WA sci­en­tists say more funded re­search is needed to de­ter­mine if West Aus­tralian great white sharks be­have like their South African coun­ter­parts, fol­low­ing pre­lim­i­nary re­sults on shark shield test­ing an­nounced last week.

“It’s a very good ques­tion, and we can’t be ab­so­lutely sure be­cause the con­di­tions are dif­fer­ent, as the wa­ter is much murkier over there, but we do know some South African great whites mi­grate to WA,” Oceans In­sti­tute di­rec­tor Shaun Collin said.

Af­ter seven fa­tal at­tacks in three years, Premier Colin Bar­nett gave the In­sti­tute $650,000 over more than two years to test the WA-de­vel­oped Shark Shield’s elec­tric pulses that in­ter­fere with sharks’ sen­si­tive snouts, bright lights, loud un­der­wa­ter sounds and bub­ble cur­tains to de­ter at­tacks.

Ini­tial re­sults found lights were only ef­fec­tive on shark species most ac­tive at night, bub­bles were ef­fec­tive for short pe­ri­ods but al­ter­ing their com­po­si­tion was an im­prove­ment and needed more re­search and loud sounds, in­clud­ing killer whale calls, had a lim­ited ef­fect.

The sci­en­tists went to South Africa to test the Shark Shield be­cause they found only one great white in 18 months in WA.

At Mos­sel Bay, 340km east of Cape Town, the shields were placed off­shore up to 500m apart, with and with­out baits to at­tract sharks, be­fore ob­ser­va­tions in­di­cated the de­vices could de­ter 90 per cent of great whites.

Prof Collin said WA should now in­te­grate its shark tag­ging pro­grams with more field re­search over 5-10 years, con­tinue “promis­ing” bub­ble cur­tain work and start study­ing chem­i­cal shark de­ter­rents.

Mr Bar­nett said fund­ing into five other de­ter­rent projects, in­clud­ing $300,000 for Shark Shield tech­nol­ogy on surf­boards, would con­tinue but he doubted there would be a bub­ble cur­tain at Cottes­loe Beach.

“I wouldn’t want chil­dren swimming around an elec­tric fence,” he said, when asked about Shark Shield as a bar­rier.

Pic­ture: Jon Bas­sett

Oceans In­sti­tute di­rec­tor Shaun Collin.

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