Shark detectors planned for popular Esperance surf spots

 watoday.com.au  6/20/2017 1:15:00 AM 

The State Government has announced Esperance will receive two new shark detectors after locals campaigned for a stronger monitoring system following the death of 17-year-old surfer Laeticia Brouwer in April.

Laeticia was surfing with her sister and father at Kelp Beds on April 18 when she was attacked by a suspected great white shark. She later passed away as a result of her injuries.

Her death sparked concerns in the Esperance surfing and swimming community relating to the existing shark monitoring system, where authorities rely solely on sighting reports. 

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the shark mitigation strategy had been expanded to include Esperance after it was found the existing shark monitoring network had "significant gaps", and found an "overwhelming" number of locals supported the idea. 

A survey found 84 per cent of locals voted for a new satellite-linked tagged shark detector at Kelp Beds while 54 per cent of locals voted for West Beach as either their first or second location preference.

"The two locations selected by the Esperance community are both popular surfing beaches among locals and visitors," Mr Kelly said.

"Department of Fisheries staff are on their way to Esperance today with the receivers and equipment to deploy the detectors, if weather permits, by the end of the month."

The receivers enable authorities to detect tagged sharks in the area, and keep locals updated through the SharkSmart website and the Surf Life Saving WA twitter feed.

The receivers will upgrade the current system used by Esperance water safety officials, with the last update on the SharkSmart regarding Esperance's popular national park highlighting the limitations of the sighting system currently used by surf life savers and fisheries. 

A report was made by a local at the popular surf spot Cape Le Grand National Park:

"Public report unknown sp. shark sighted 14:54hrs 31/05, Victoria Harbour, Cape Le Grand National Park. Phone dropped out. No details."

This is the only recorded sighting off the Esperance coast in the last month, despite the area being a well-known great white hot spot. 

The installation of the two new satellite-linked tagged shark detectors brings to the total number of shark detectors off WA's coastline to 27. The receivers track around 256 white sharks, 101 tiger sharks and 140 bronze whalers. 

There have been 15 fatal shark attacks off WA's coast since 2000.

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