Sonar sounds like life saver

SHARK SIGHTING: a great white shark encountered off the coast of Massachusetts.
SHARK SIGHTING: a great white shark encountered off the coast of Massachusetts. Greg Skomal

A MODERN age answer to shark mitigation has been welcomed by the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Lifesaving Club.

Andrew Dougherty, the club's director of lifesaving, says Shark Mitigation Systems, Google and Optus' Clever Buoy could increase swimmer safety and reduce unnecessary fear.S

Additionally, the device could also provide a more humane method of shark control across Australia and the world.

The buoy, which is due for commercial sale in mid-2015, emits sonar signals into the surrounding water to detect incoming sharks before sending an alert to lifesavers' smartphones via the Optus network.

Mr Dougherty said the system could help move swimmers out of the water at a moment's notice.

"For us in Ballina, we only get about one or two (alerts) a year," he said.

"In Byron Bay there's a few more, but it is probably a weekly occurrence across the Far North Coast."

Mr Dougherty said the device would be useful locally, but would come into its own in Western Australia and other locations where shark sightings are more common.

"It's more so needed in other areas where the bigger sharks are a bit more common," he said.

"Like in WA, where there's more risk of attack. Even I would be a bit cautious of being in the water there."

Mr Dougherty said the system might prevent incidents such as the WA shark cull, which has resulted in the deaths of dozens of sharks of various species.

It could also reduce the need for harmful shark netting and long-line systems used in various states.

"It would certainly be more humane and I'd imagine our surf lifesavers are fully welcoming of any method that stops sharks being killed," he said.

The cost of the technology has not yet been decided upon, according to an Optus spokeswoman. Mr Dougherty said clubs would likely be unable to fully fund implementation, describing surf lifesaving as a "break-even proposition as it is".

The buoy has been tested and was successful at alerting of sharks and not other marine animals.

Topics:  ballina lighthouse-lismore slsc sonar

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