Helicopter shark patrols will be extended in the South West after new figures showed the number of shark sightings so far this season is nearly double last year’s total.
One hundred and forty-nine sharks have been spotted in the South West since November — up from 77 in the 2011-12 season.
The number of great white shark sightings has jumped from one last year to 14 this year and tiger shark sightings have increased from zero to four year-on-year.
Surf Life Saving WA chief executive Paul Andrew said the latest figure included 60 schooling hammerheads spotted at Bunker Bay on January 22.
“SLSWA would classify this school as one sighting, but the total sharks have been included in these stats, ” he said. “Taking out the school of sharks, we have seen 90 sharks this season, which is a slight increase on the 2011-2012 figures.
“Our helicopter crews (are) becoming more skilled at identifying sharks and shark species in varying conditions. An example of this would be the fact that 14 great white sharks were identified over the patrol season compared to one positive identification in the same period last season.”
Patrols were due to end on February 3, but SLSWA has extended them over the Labour Day and Easter holiday period due to the high number of beach goers during those times.
A shark mobile application developed by SLSWA with $50,000 Government funding is due to be trialled this month and will be available to the public for free.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the City of Busselton local emergency management committee in December last year revealed a more consistent approach to shark-related beach closures was needed.
Minutes taken during the meeting suggested a lot of responsibility was placed on local government to shut beaches and the City and other local governments were attempting to get the issue to a State level.
The committee was told the City was “copping a lot of flack” for shutting beaches down.
The City used to close beaches for 24 hours after a sighting, but this was not deemed practical and rangers were closing the beach for only a few hours if there were no further sightings.City of Busselton planning and development services director Paul Needham said relevant agencies needed to continue to work together to identify the best overall approach to managing the issue.
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.