WA spotters unlikely

Public education on the beach is part of Shark Spotters’ work.
Public education on the beach is part of Shark Spotters’ work.

‘During the Shark International Conference in Durban in June we had informal discussions with both the (WA) scientist and the Government official about the issue, including the Shark Spotters program, and the recent exclusion net project we trialled,’ Cape Town-based Shark Spotters research manager Alison Kock said.

Shark Spotters observers watch from headlands above eight beaches, as part of the Cape Town Council-backed annual $280,000 (R2.8million) program that also uses public education on beaches and offshore research about the animals’ behaviour, that sighted 168 great white sharks in 12 months until June 30.

Dr Kock said Shark Spotters offered to assist a WA pilot project but a Cape Town trial of shark barriers showed strong winds, large swells and high maintenance costs made the devices inappropriate on exposed coasts. As a result, Shark Spotters successfully trialled a $45,000 exclusion net at peak times at Fish Hoek Beach until March.

A Department of Premier and Cabinet spokesman said a program similar to Shark Spotters had been considered in the review of the trial of shark drum lines until April but WA did not have high hills near beaches like Cape Town.

‘The construction of 20m-tall watchtowers in remote (WA) locations was posed to employees of the Shark Spotters program and they considered this to be an ineffective option,’ the spokesman said.

Other issues identified by the Government included that the observers operated at a small number of beaches and only looked for sharks on the surface, and highly trained staff had to ‘confidently identify’ sharks close to swimmers, who were relied on to react to warnings.