A researcher from the School of Physics at The University of Western Australia has kicked off a project to test a cutting-edge acoustic system to detect sharks as they approach Perth beaches.
Shane Chambers, who was awarded $252,417 as part of the Western Australian Government’s Shark Mitigation Strategy, said the new system could provide larger coverage areas than traditional shark nets, will be more economical to operate and more efficient than traditional sonar.
“Sharks are almost undetectable to sonar because unlike other fish, they don’t have swim bladders, which act as a large air bubble producing a strong sound reflection,” Mr Chambers said.
“There’s a reason that sharks are at the top of the food chain and it’s because they’re difficult to see - they are the stealth bombers of the ocean which makes detection by traditional sonar very inefficient.”
“There’s a real gap in the market when it comes to effective broad scale protection from sharks at metropolitan beaches.”
Mr Chambers, who is using the University’s water polo pool to prototype his new system, said his technology is based on underwater acoustic techniques initially developed as part of his PhD to understand whale and dolphin strandings.
“I’ve been working in the field of underwater acoustics for almost 20 years now so I have a very good understanding of the limitations of current technologies and a feeling for when something new might prove a breakthrough,” he said.
“This detection system could easily be deployed off coastal locations, ideally replacing physical nets with a ‘virtual net’ that senses big marine creatures as they approach, setting off an alarm to warn swimmers.”
Mr Chambers, who is Chief Investigator on the three-year project, said the funding is “strong recognition from the State” of the potential impact of his doctoral work.
“It’s also indicative of the high calibre of research coming from PhD students at UWA, particularly in Physics,” he said.
"So far the concept looks to work in a pool so we will continue refining it and then take it to a coastal location to test it further."
Caption: Initial tests on the new acoustic shark detection system are being conducted in UWA water polo pool to investigate the identification of surfers.
Shane Chambers (UWA School of Physics) (+61 8) 6488 5578
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716