Rockingham MLA Mark McGowan backs drone shark watch

Rockingham MLA Mark McGowan backs drone shark watch

A THREE-month drone surveillance trial to monitor sharks along the coastline has been supported by Opposition leader and Rockingham MLA Mark McGowan.

Fisheries Minister Joe Francis said the State Government had allocated $88,000 to enable Surf Life Saving WA to trial the technology at some metropolitan beaches, including Rockingham, this summer.

Under the trial, a small drone equipped with a high-definition camera will stream live pictures back to SLSWA operators.

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Mr McGowan said there was no “magic bullet” to prevent shark attacks.

“That is why I also support the use of helicopter patrols and drones to protect swimmers at busy metropolitan and regional beaches,” he said.

“We need to use a variety of evidence-based approaches to ensure public safety, while also respecting our natural environment.”

He said Labor would subsidise 1000 shark deterrent devices for surfers and divers as part of a $200,000 year-long trial if it wins next year’s State Election.

“Surfers and divers are the most vulnerable people in the ocean,” he said.

“Evidence shows that they are at the greatest risk of shark attack due to the fact they often swim out further and in more isolated locations than recreational swimmers.”

The trial is supported by Rick Gerring, the brother of Ben Gerring, who was killed by a shark at Falcon on May 31.

“I’m here to protect people, number one,” he said.

“Any initiative that we can get out there to educate and protect people, especially with summer coming up, is something we need to do.”

Last week in Parliament, Premier Colin Barnett said he would not support the devices because he said they were not 100 per cent effective.

“There is not a 90 per cent improvement in safety if a device is used that is considered to be effective nine times out of 10,” he said.

“The point I make is simply that Shark Shield, a commercial product, is not foolproof; it is not.”