SMART drumlines in Great Lakes

The DPI aerial patrol snapped this 2.3m bull shark at Mungo, Hawks Nest in early January. There were no swimmers or surfers in the water at the time.
The DPI aerial patrol snapped this 2.3m bull shark at Mungo, Hawks Nest in early January. There were no swimmers or surfers in the water at the time.

In the first five months of the six month trial of SMART drumlines, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) tagged and release 64 sharks at Forster-Tuncurry.

The trial, which also included beaches in Coffs Harbour-Sawtell, finished earlier last week.

DPI’s Fisheries research director, Dr Natalie Moltschaniwskyj said SMART drumline have been deployed daily (weather permitting) at these popular tourist destinations since August.

“In the first five months of the trial, DPI caught, tagged and released 64 sharks at Forster-Tuncurry and an additional 15 at Coffs Harbour,” Dr Moltschaniwskyj said.

“Preliminary findings from the trial suggest once tagged the sharks - mostly juveniles and sub-adults – then stay in deeper offshore waters for up to four weeks before rejoining their counterparts in their general movements north and south.

“The other important finding is that there is no such thing as a residential shark.

“Most individuals appear to hang around for a day or so, but then they move on.”

SMART drumlines send a message to researchers when a shark takes the baited hook under a float. Sharks are then fitted with an acoustic tag and released one kilometre off the beach and tracked using satellite and listening stations.

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, said NSW is leading the world in the trials of SMART drumlines, providing not only safety for beachgoers but scientific research that we’ve never seen before. 

“SMART drumlines are helping keep our beaches safer by intercepting on the seaward side of the surd break while also providing vital insights for both our scientists and our beachgoers on shark movements and their behaviour in NSW waters” Mr Blair said.

“These trials are key to allowing the NSW Government to make informed decisions.

“We want to make sure we are continually testing the science and trialling world-first technology, while keeping our local communities part of the conversation. 

“We will now work to analyse these results to inform how we may continue to use this technology across the State.”

The NSW Government’s Shark Management Strategy is trialling a number of shark mitigation technologies, along with SMART Drumlines, including the use of drones and helicopters for aerial surveillance and tagging and tracking sharks.

On the trial’s last day, Tuesday, February 13 a 1.4m tiger shark was tagged and released off One Mile Beach, Forster, while a 2.19m tiger shark was tagged and release on February 9.

Tagged shark activity has been relatively quiet in the Great Lakes with the last detection off Bennetts Beach at Hawks Nest on February 10. The receiver was set off 36 times from February 8-10.

A tagged white shark was detected off Forster’s Main Beach on February 8 on eight occasions.

For more information about the NSW Shark Management Strategy and to see an animation on how SMART drumlines work visit the DPI website.