Summary: Sharks remain an ever present hazard for the public and members. A range of mitigation activities are being implemented, reviewed or researched; this Circular provides the SLSWA membership with a summary of these activities and provides guidance on where to obtain additional information.
With the most recent fatal shark attack, at Wedge Island, it is reasonable for the public and members of Surf Life Saving to review their current activities, plans and behaviors so that all reasonable steps are being applied to mitigate exposure to shark hazards from the perspective of the individual, Club member and general public safety.
SLSWA is in constant discussion with the State Government and in particular the Department of Fisheries to develop and review current and future mitigation strategies. A number of the strategies are being or considered for implementation by SLSWA and/or Club services.
The purpose of this Circular is to highlight the strategies the State Government are implementing or under further investigation; and to provide Clubs advice and direction on steps the whole of Club and each individual member can take to mitigate the risk of shark hazards.
The State Government via the Department of Fisheries has funded a number of initiatives over the next four years and includes:
- Establishing a Shark Response Unit to undertake additional research into sharks and oversee the development of a community engagement strategy to improve public safety and raise awareness of shark response and alert procedures.
- Tagging of white sharks to observe the migratory and territorial habits
- Establishing, in partnership with SLSWA, a Twitter and Facebook alert system regarding known or reported shark activity.
- Expanding the metropolitan and South West aerial surveillance area, including Rottnest Island, and the introduction of additional beach patrols at popular beach locations in the south west and metropolitan area.
- Research and review into the effectiveness of shark repellent devices.
A number of Clubs will be considering additional strategies for implementation this summer especially as club based activity starts to increase leading into summer. While it is appropriate for Clubs and the membership to review specific circumstances, any additional strategies implemented at the local level should only be adopted if they are evidence based, reliable, financially sustainable in terms of initial capital outlay and re-current operating expenditure, can be applied indefinitely and importantly address public safety as well as member safety.
While the heightened awareness of shark hazards and implementation of prevention and response strategies may lessen the risk of exposure, it is essential to understand that individual behaviour framed by informed decisions is the strongest strategy each individual can undertake.
Participation in surf club activities, particularly when the patrols are on duty and other surf club activity is underway is likely to provide a higher level of safety due to the systems in place that provide for public and member safety (i.e. water safety, patrols, surveillance (tower and aerial) alerts) . Shark hazards are but one risk that surf lifesaving systems and practices assist to mitigate.
SLSWA believe each member needs to develop the following habits and become a role model for each.
- Follow and ALWAYS check the SLSWA Twitter, Face book, Fisheries or news web-sites for alerts & activity. (E.g. whale carcass, sightings); prior to entering the water.
- Tune into the news bulletins on radio for latest updates.
- Report known shark sightings to water police (9442 8600).
- Never go into the marine environment alone.
- Where possible, swim in and close to areas under surveillance by Lifesavers.
- Avoid aquatic activity either side of dusk and dawn.
- Respect beach closure advisories by Local Governments or Police.
- Avoid aquatic activity near river mouths or steep drop offs
- Acknowledge the presence of schools of fish, particularly bait fish.
- Assist in advising other members or the public of known shark activity and beach closures.
For further information regarding local or state based strategies please contact Matthew du Plessis, Lifesaving Operations Coordinator (
) or Chris Peck, Community Safety Manager (