Words Mimi LaMontagne
There have been over 500 fatal shark attacks since we first started recording them in 1958. 2014 in Australia saw a total of four fatal shark attacks, and in 2015, the world saw the highest number of recorded shark attacks ever. The average fatality rate is now greater than one person per year. And, although Australia ranks as the second highest in global attacks (the US is the highest), it’s ranked highest in terms of deaths.
But we’re not telling you this to freak you out. You probably already know it. It’s the truth, and whether you were brutally aware or blissfully ignorant, it’s happening. What matters is that the scientists and governments that record that information are trying to do something about it.
No, we don’t mean go out and cull all the sharks. We don’t mean don’t get in the water. We don’t mean blame it on overfishing and a growing population. We mean research and innovation. And that, my friends, is where the comes in Clever Buoy.
The Clever Buoy uses sonar technology to detect shark-sized objects in coastal areas in a humane, non-intrusive way.
In the past sonar has had limited success in being able to detect sharks, but the equipment used in the Clever Buoy is an intuitive technology that can be programmed to learn the details of a shark – measuring the length of an object with its propulsion through the ocean using sonar signatures, which in turn will differentiate sharks from other sea life. The Clever Buoy has successfully identified sharks in testing phases at Sydney Aquarium and the Abrolhos Islands (off the West Coast of Oz). Think of it like Facebook's facial recognition feature, but for sharks.
When the buoy finds a shark that is known to attack humans, it will relay a signal up to a satellite, which will then notify the lifeguard on the beach. The process will be nearly instantaneous.
And as of this week, Bondi Beach is the first in the world to start trialling the technology. This comes as a part of the NSW government's $16-million shark strategy.
One of the company's founders, Mr Anderson, said the Clever Buoy has a success rate of at least 90 per cent in its ability to detect sharks. "It uses a multi-beam sonar which is a relatively new sonar technology, coupled with some software which is very much like facial recognition technology for marine life. Anything that is greater than two metres and is self-propelled will be detected.
"The reason we made it two metres is because history of shark attacks around the world tells us that with anything less than two metres you're unlikely to die."
If the Clever Buoy is truly successful it could not only mean the end of these mass shark attacks, but it would also be the first completely humane deterrent system – no messing with the ocean’s ecosystem, no messing with the ocean’s pecking order, no more mass debates around culling.
So, what do you think? Do you think this’ll work? And, more importantly, would you trust it?