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Shark hazard mitigation strategies.
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Research & Initiatives

The State Government is supporting a variety of research projects and initiatives to gain a better understanding of shark biology and ecology by implementing (and investigating) various public safety initiatives and making changes to government policy. The aim is to provide everyone with useful information to make informed decisions about their water use.

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Shark Response Unit

Shark Response Unit

06 November 2013

The Shark Response Unit was created within the Department of Fisheries to research shark populations and movements, coordinate responses to sharks posing a serious threat to public safety and provide advice and information to people who are considering using the water.

These initiatives ensure response agencies can close beaches and the community keeps well informed about sightings, threats and attacks. Leading research programs also aim to help us better understand shark behaviour and help keep people safe.

We’ve changed laws to stop shark tourism that might encourage sharks to an area. We’re also creating response frameworks and streamlined information reporting to ensure those agencies that close beaches (and partners like Water Police and Surf Life Saving) can respond faster.

We’re also exploring community programs that could contribute to public water safety – like collecting community views on sharks and creating this SHARKSMART website.

In addition, four major research projects have been commissioned to better understand white sharks in Western Australia and the likely effectiveness of any community safety interventions. These are:

  • A world class shark monitoring and tagging project. The Shark Monitoring Network was implemented to collect information about white shark movements off our coast. Including the pilot phase, the project extended over seven years at a cost of $3 million dollars. The results, released in April 2016, show that white sharks can exhibit rapid, extensive movements around the Western Australian coast with some seasonality in their abundance off the metropolitan coast. As their movements are mostly uncoordinated, this limits general predictions of when human encounters with this species could be likely. View Fisheries Research Report. 273, 2016 
  • A correlation study of the potential risk factors associated with white shark attacks in Western Australian waters explores possible links between shark sightings, interactions or attacks and locations, weather conditions, water temperatures and the activity of other marine mammals that might attract sharks. View Fisheries Occasional Publication 109, November 2012
  • A review of white shark population numbers. A study has been conducted to reconstruct the levels of annual catch of white sharks by commercial and recreational fishing since 1938 and to combine this data with life-history information to develop a series of population trajectory scenarios. These scenarios varied markedly and the report has identified the need for further investigation. View Fisheries Research Report No. 277, 2016  
  • A beach netting study. This review looked at the effectiveness of shark meshing, and shark exclusion barriers implemented in other areas of the world and the likelihood of these initiatives being successful in WA. The study was conducted by Queensland’s Bond University. The report found that shark nets and drum lines were not recommended. Instead swimming enclosures (referred to as shark enclosures) provide a complete physical barrier that prevented sharks entering an area without killing the sharks or other marine life. A trial of swimming enclosures has since been funded by the Office of Science. View Fisheries Occasional Publication 108, August 2012

The Department of Fisheries has also commissioned its patrol vessel Hamelin to the Unit to improve its capability to manage shark hazards and carry out shark research and tagging activities. 

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