Australia shark attack summit aims to reduce attacks

Great White Shark (file photo) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Various theories have been put forward for the increasing number of shark attacks - including warmer ocean temperatures

Shark experts from around the world are meeting in Sydney to discuss ways to prevent casualties, after a rise in the number of attacks in recent months.

About 70 experts will discuss potential new technologies to reduce incidents, summit organisers say.

One area being discussed is real-time tracking of sharks for swimmers and surfers using a smartphone app.

There have been 13 shark attacks and one fatality in New South Wales so far this year, up from three last year.

Experts have suggested various reasons for the rising numbers of shark attacks across Australia, including warmer ocean temperatures and more people swimming in the sea. This is especially the case with surfers, who can spend longer in the water because of high-quality wetsuits.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Surfers are thought to be more at risk because better wetsuits means they can spend longer in the water
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Beaches where sharks have been sighted are often temporarily closed to the public

Various attack deterrents including a shark-detecting buoy - which sends a text message to lifeguards when it detects any danger - will be discussed at the Taronga Zoo meeting.

Other methods include an electronic repellent system which releases a magnetic field designed to interfere with a shark's electroreceptors without affecting other sea creatures.

Another possibility is the placement of flexible plastic walls in the sea near beaches to prevent sharks from coming to the shore. The walls have openings which allow smaller creatures to swim in and out without the risk of net entanglement.

But correspondents say that only one deterrent - a shark spotting program - is considered by the authorities to be suitable for immediate trial.

'Non-lethal technology'

The summit is taking place as a new study reveals that there is little public support in the north of New South Wales (NSW) for killing sharks as a method to reduce shark attacks in the area.

The research by the University of Sydney also revealed that many people want more research into human-shark interactions.

"A majority of Ballina residents want the government to educate the public about human-shark encounters, invest in non-lethal technology and back more research into human-shark encounters," head of the research study Dr Christopher Neff said.

NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said that making beaches safer is a top priority for the state government.

"That's why we are leaving no stone unturned to make sure we look at new and innovative ways to protect our beaches," he was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying.

"The world's best scientists will be in Sydney this week to discuss a number of new technologies to be trialled in NSW waters, which will inform advice to the NSW government on additional measures."

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