Clever Buoys not so smart at shark ID

The West Australian - - NEWS - Daniel Mercer

Tax­pay­ers forked out half-a-mil­lion dol­lars for a trial of cut­tingedge sonar equip­ment that was un­able to de­ter­mine whether the ob­jects it de­tected were sharks.

Amid a re­view of the trial into the so-called Clever Buoy tech­nol­ogy, fig­ures by the State Gov­ern­ment show the sys­tem de­tected 37 “pos­si­ble” sharks off City Beach this sum­mer.

The trial, which cost $500,000 and formed part of the State’s shark mit­i­ga­tion strat­egy, ran from De­cem­ber un­til the end of March.

Touted as a world-first tech­nol­ogy, Clever Buoy uses sonar and satel­lite-linked re­ceivers to send alerts to au­thor­i­ties and mo­bile phones when cer­tain types of ob­jects are de­tected in the wa­ter.

The Depart­ment of Fish­eries said there had been 37 “pub­lic post­ings of de­tec­tions” dur­ing the 14-week pe­riod the Clever Buoy sys­tem was de­ployed.

But the depart­ment de­scribed the de­tec­tions only as “pos­si­ble sharks” be­cause the sys­tem was un­able to dis­tin­guish be­tween dif­fer­ent types of ma­rine an­i­mals, let alone species of sharks.

The depart­ment also ac­knowl­edged it was un­able to say whether the de­tec­tions were of 37 dif­fer­ent an­i­mals or a smaller num­ber of an­i­mals be­ing de­tected mul­ti­ple times.

Lisa Clack, the man­ager of the depart­ment’s shark re­sponse unit, said any de­ci­sions about whether to ex­tend the trial or roll out a broader de­ploy­ment would de­pend on the find­ings of the re­view.

“Work is now un­der way to re­view the trial; in­cor­po­rat­ing oper­a­tional, tech­ni­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal as­pects,” Ms Clack said.

“Any de­ci­sions on fu­ture use of the sys­tem will de­pend on a num­ber of fac­tors, in­clud­ing the out­come of the re­views.

“The to­tal cost of the trial, in­clud­ing the cur­rent re­view, has not been yet been fi­nalised.

“It should be noted that while the City Beach Clever Buoy sys­tem has been switched off, it will take some time for all the equip­ment to be re­moved from the wa­ter.

“De­tail on the num­ber of de­tec­tions and ef­fec­tive­ness of the sys­tem will be in­cor­po­rated into the re­view.”

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