Capes region residents need to continue reporting shark sightings to the authorities, as anecdotal evidence points to an increase in white shark sightings off the WA coastline, one year after the Bunker Bay shark attack.
Twenty-one-year-old bodyboarder Kyle Burden was fatally attacked by a white shark on September 4 last year, the first victim of a year-long spate of attacks.
The Department of Fisheries and Surf Life Saving WA say they have received increased numbers of reports of sightings from members of the public, as the attacks continued to heighten awareness about sharks.
Shark Response Unit manager Michael Burgess told the Times there was increasing awareness of the Water Police phone number, but more work needed to be completed.
“Unfortunately, some notable sightings or interactions have been reported first in the media and not through Water Police,” he said.
“Calling the Water Police is the key to triggering the appropriate response.
“Better reporting means better information.”
Surf Life Saving WA beach services co-ordinator Matt Du Plessis agreed people were more likely to report suspected sightings following the unprecedented attacks.
“People will see a splash in the water and they’ll immediately report it,” he said.
“The best thing is for people to report anything they see as it could help save lives.
“With the spate last year, I think people are starting to take responsibility.”
However, Mr Du Plessis said more was needed to be done to open up the lines of communication to spread the word when sightings were reported.
Many surf breaks and beaches in the region, he said, were located in remote spots, where it could take authorities time to arrive and close beaches and warn people in the water.
Mr Burgess said the use of social media to rapidly disseminate shark sighting alerts was a vital step forward, but there was potential to further enhance communication of alerts given the popularity of mobile devices.
But Mr Du Plessis added that water users needed to take responsibility for themselves and look at the conditions and whether people were in the water before going in themselves.
He said SLSWA was continuing to develop procedures about how long beaches should be closed for, roughly the distance that should be closed, and were working with the Government to enable this.
Busselton Mayor Ian Stubbs agreed social media had enabled shark sighting information to go out quicker.
However, he said more needed to be done to get people to take notice of the warning and there was room for continuing public education.