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Beach usage and aerial surveillance for sharks in Perth metropolitan waters

Blackweir, D.G. and Beckley, L.E. (2004) Beach usage and aerial surveillance for sharks in Perth metropolitan waters. In: Australian Marine Science Association Conference, 6 - 9 July, Hobart, Tasmania.


During summer, many thousands of people visit beaches in the Perth metropolitan area to engage in a wide range of recreational activities. In November 2000, a swimmer was killed by a shark off Cottesloe Beach - the first shark attack fatality in 75 years. Since then, the Western Australian government has implemented aerial surveillance for sharks in coastal waters off Perth metropolitan beaches each summer during November, December and January. In the summer of 2003/04 an observer from Murdoch University flew with the aerial patrol to evaluate various aspects of the surveillance. Aerial patrols were conducted daily from 06:00 – 09:00 and from 09:30 to 12:30. The flight route was from Jandakot Airport northwards to Two Rocks Beach, then southwards along 140 km of coast to Avalon Beach, Mandurah and back to Two Rocks Beach. This flight pattern was repeated several times each day resulting in as many as eight passes over individual beaches. Marine animals such as dolphins were regularly sighted but sharks proved elusive. Environmental factors, such as glare, water clarity, seabed characteristics, weather and onset of the sea breeze, were found to influence the visibility of marine animals from the air. Beach usage patterns were also investigated by photographing beaches along the flight path and counting the numbers of people engaged in recreational activities such as swimming and surfing. Highest numbers were recorded on Boxing Day, when the total number of people observed on beaches during a north-south flight along the metropolitan coastline exceeded 12 000 persons. Repeated passes over popular beaches such as Cottesloe and Scarborough throughout the summer allowed detailed temporal information regarding beach usage to be obtained.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
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