NSW shark sightings rise as drone surveillance increases

Official shark sightings on NSW beaches have risen to their highest level in five years as drones are increasingly used to spot them.

This summer, drone pilots at 50 beaches, from Fingal Head in the north of the state to Pambula Beach in the south, will examine daily aerial images of popular swimming spots, looking for long dark shapes resembling sharks.

Michael Coventry from Surf Life Saving NSW's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles division in Dee Why Beach on Tuesday.

Michael Coventry from Surf Life Saving NSW’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles division in Dee Why Beach on Tuesday.Credit:Nick Moir

A shark alert was issued in Palm Beach Tuesday and the beach was closed for 30 minutes after a drone operator spotted a six-foot-long hammerhead shark near shore.

This beach evacuation is just one of many expected this summer as increased use of drones leads to more shark sightings.

According to data from Surf Life Saving NSW, the number of sharks sighted off the state’s netted beaches rose from just six in 2017-18 to 104 in 2021-22.

Sydney’s beaches, stretching from Palm Beach to Cronulla in the south, had the most shark sightings with 53 in the 12 months to July 2022, followed by the Central Coast with 20 sightings and the Hunter Region with 18 sharks sighted.

A Department of Primary Industries report earlier this year attributed this big increase to drones – not more sharks. “This increase is unlikely to represent an increase in sharks on NSW beaches, but rather underscores the value of aerial drone surveillance in detecting sharks,” it said.

Drone technology has been used to spot sharks in NSW since 2017, but this is the first summer that every local government area along the coast will have at least one beach with a drone pilot on duty.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/i-have-seen-them-literally-off-the-shoreline-nsw-shark-sightings-rise-20221227-p5c8zt.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national NSW shark sightings rise as drone surveillance increases

Callan Tansill

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