Shark alarms at the Point and Gas Bay

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly, Shire of Augusta-Margaret River planning director Dale Putland and Surfing WA chief Mark Lane earlier this year.
Camera IconFisheries Minister Dave Kelly, Shire of Augusta-Margaret River planning director Dale Putland and Surfing WA chief Mark Lane earlier this year. Credit: The West Australian, Daniel Wilkins

Margaret River surfers will get permanent Spectur alarms at Surfers Point and Gas Bay.

The move comes at the end of the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River's six-month trial of alarms at Huzzas and the Point.

While a report approved by councillors this week argued for rangers to continue shark mitigation efforts, the Huzzas alarm would be moved to Gas Bay, at a total cost of $12,170.

Officers found existing Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attraction alarms at North Point and South Point were adequate.

The DBCA alarms were among nine built along the coast as part of the State Government’s 15-month shark drumline trial.

Rangers will monitor the two Shire alarms through smartphone apps, cutting down response times compared to the old text messaging system.

“The Spectur shark warning system has demonstrated that it can considerably reduce the length of time it takes to alert beachgoers to the presence of a shark,” the report said.

The devices offer “a selection of pre-recorded audio and visual alerts (sent) directly to the beach by means of its strategically-positioned light and sound alarm system”.

The alarms come with cameras which film beach users when active.

“This creates a useful record that can be used to modify how the system informs the general public of a shark sighting or for any occupational health and safety requirements,” the report said.

Earlier this year, the Times reported widespread surfer confusion at the DBCA alarms, which sound for tagged sharks as well as those detected by the State Government contractor.

“The Shire’s units have now been synchronised to be set off at the same times as (DBCA) units,” officers said.

“It is questionable whether the Shire’s unit at Huzzas is now serving any purpose or simply a duplication of the other two (DBCA) units at North and South Point.”

The report said the Shire considered sharks a “significant community risk”.

“Augusta-Margaret River has a higher level of shark activity than many other parts of the WA coastline,” it said.

Feedback from surfers during the trial noted “the significant number of times that the alerts were sounded due to a marine animal being caught on the drumline has had a detrimental impact”.

“With the significant increase in alerts, there has been a tendency to ignore the alarm when, on most occasions, it was found that the animal on the smart drumline was not a great white shark,” the report said.

“Feedback has, however, been mostly positive and supportive by visitors to the region who were approached for comment in the adjacent carparks.” The report said State Government alarms were triggered by “non-shark-related activity” 100 out of 150 times.

The Shire alarms activated 17 times, for four actual shark sightings.

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