Shark net ‘pinger’ trial results promising

A trial of new acoustic alarms on shark nets in the waters of the Gold Coast and Rainbow Beach region is aiming to reduce dolphin entanglements in shark control equipment, and has provided “promising” early results according to the Queensland Boating and Fishing Patrol (QBFP).

The QBFP has reported zero incidents of dolphin entanglement in the fitted nets since the trial began in April.

Known as ‘pingers’, the alarms operate at 70kHz and have been attached to six of the 11 shark nets on the Gold Coast and two of three nets at Rainbow Beach.

Shark Control Program Manager Jeff Krause from the QBFP spoke of the current results of the pinger trial and the future of the alarms in Queensland waters -

“As with any trial of this nature the pingers will be in place for some time so we can properly determine their effectiveness, but these early results are promising”, stated Mr Krause.

“In the past we’ve had some success with other types of pingers in reducing the number of dolphin entanglements, but we’re hoping these new pingers will be even more successful.

“If these pingers are as effective as we hope they will be, we’ll then look at installing them at other beaches with shark nets in place along the Queensland coast”, concluded Mr Krause.

The pinger alarms were developed by Sunshine Coast-based specialist marine mammal acoustic pinger manufacturer Fumunda Marine, and differ to previous pinger alarms in design and operation.

James Turner, Director of Fumunda Marine, said earlier pingers were designed to target harbour porpoises, prevalent in the northern hemisphere.

“These new pingers work differently to the porpoise pingers and are designed specifically to alert dolphins to the presence of the shark nets”, said Mr Turner.

“The earlier porpoise pingers do work on some dolphin species but these new pingers are more powerful and deliver a louder signal, as dolphin species are larger and more robust than porpoises.

“The pingers operate at 70kHz, which sits right in the best known middle hearing range of bottlenose and common dolphins, both of which are found in Queensland.

“This frequency is far higher than the 10kHz used in the earlier porpoise pingers”, added Mr Turner.

Mr Krause of the QBFP informed that the use of whale pingers on shark control nets has been in practice since 1993, and with continued research and development since, the most recent introduction of a new type of whale pinger came in 2010.

Mr Krause also added that while the improvement of safety of beachgoers was the priority of the Shark Control Program, a range of measures were in place to reduce the number of marine animal entanglements.

“Given we’re expecting to see up to 16,000 whales migrating along the coast this season, it’s important we continue to take preventative measures to help them avoid entanglements”, said Mr Krause.

“We also have specially trained Marine Animal Release Teams on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and in Mackay.

“A volunteer whale observer program is in place on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, whereby people living in high-rise buildings are trained to identify whale entanglements in shark control gear if they occur.

“Surveillance cameras are also mounted on buildings at the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Rainbow Beach to help monitor and check reported marine animal entanglements”, added Mr Krause.

The QBFP has informed that anyone who spots a whale or other marine animal tangled in fishing gear or shark netting should call the 24-hour Shark Hotline on 1800 806 891.
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WildLife Rules!: Shark net ‘pinger’ trial results promising
Shark net ‘pinger’ trial results promising
WildLife Rules!
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