To improve protection from shark attacks for beachgoers, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has launched and is leading the NSW Shark Program. The program uses smart and innovative shark surveillance and management technology that has minimal harm to sharks and other marine life including drones, SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time) drumlines and shark listening stations.
A key component of this initiative is the SharkSmart App which gives beachgoers real time alerts of shark detections. These alerts come from a network of 21 listening stations along the NSW coast that detect tagged sharks in real time. Since its release, the app has had over 90,000 downloads. SMART drumlines provide a rapid response system to catch, tag, relocate, and release target sharks. SMART drumlines have a satellite-linked GPS communications unit attached to a hook baited with one sea mullet. When a shark takes the bait, the boat crew and DPI scientists receive an alert that an animal is on the line. Once alerted, the team responds within 30 minutes to tag, relocate, and release the shark or other marine animal.
NSW DPI has partnered with Surf Life Saving NSW to trial shark surveillance using drones and artificial intelligence technology to detect target shark species and relay this information in real time to beach authorities. In 2019/2020 drones across the state flew over 20,000km and observed 254 sharks that led to 97 beach closures.
The NSW Shark Program has significantly improved beachgoer safety and over 2020/21 includes drone surveillance at 34 key swimming locations, 35 SMART drumlines in high risk locations on the North Coast, and 21 listening stations along NSW coastline.