Shark sight­ing val­i­da­tion call

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - By JON BAS­SETT

SURF Life Sav­ing WA says shark sight­ings should be ver­i­fied so swim­mers’ anger is not di­rected at lifesavers en­forc­ing beach clo­sures.

“If I look at the Clever Buoy ex­am­ple at City Beach, where that trial was con­ducted, and the num­ber of beach clo­sures, there was a sig­nif­i­cant amount of angst from the peo­ple, and that anger was di­rected at the lifesavers who were sim­ply de­liv­er­ing the pro­to­cols and clos­ing the beach,” SLSWA gen­eral man­ager Chris Peck told a Se­nate in­quiry hear­ing into mit­i­gat­ing at­tacks in Perth last month.

Cottes­loe res­i­dent Bryn Martin is the only at­tack vic­tim at a pa­trolled beach af­ter he was killed by a great white off Cottes­loe Beach in 2011.

SLSWA is­sued 258 im­mi­nent threat warnings, caus­ing at least 4600 peo­ple to leave the wa­ter on 40 pa­trolled beaches in the past two years.

At the hear­ing, Mr Peck said while peo­ple were al­ter­ing how they used beaches, fre­quent clo­sures made peo­ple “frus­trated” and “an­gry”.

“The pro­to­col (closes the beach) for an hour from the last sight­ing. So if we get to minute 59 and we see it again, the clock starts again,” Mr Peck said.

He said there was a need for sight­ings to be con­firmed but de­spite at­tempts by he­li­copter or drone, SLSWA was un­able to val­i­date any shark be­ing in the area when a beach was shut.

Dur­ing Clever Buoy’s trial all hours for three months, 15 of the 27 shark de­tec­tions were in SLSWA op­er­at­ing hours. The de­tec­tions caused 15 beach clo­sures, while there were seven clo­sures for other rea­sons.

Clever Buoy gen­eral man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Craig An­der­son said while the trial did not in­clude vis­ual ver­i­fi­ca­tions, the for­mer state gov­ern­ment pre­vi­ously did “in­ten­sive in­de­pen­dent due dili­gence of the ac­cu­racy and val­i­da­tion of the de­tec­tion sys­tem”.

“Dur­ing the trial it was tried to have the he­li­copter on-site as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter a de­tec­tion, but this is not al­ways achiev­able,” he said.

He said drones were be­ing tested for ver­i­fi­ca­tion but they suf­fered from lim­ited vis­i­bil­ity, wind and laws about fly­ing at pub­lic places.

The “ul­ti­mate” shark con­fir­ma­tion would be Clever Buoy de­tect­ing a tagged shark, and a hu­man sight­ing.

“This is why we have used sonar as the ba­sis of the tech­nol­ogy for de­tect­ing mov­ing ob­jects in the wa­ter and cre­ated a ma­chine learn­ing sys­tem to au­to­mate this and pro­vide real-time in­for­ma­tion to beach au­thor­i­ties,” Mr An­der­son said.

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