20 October 2005

Australia: Plans to count great whites and pinpoint shark hotspots

A PROGRAM to count white pointer sharks that was launched in Port Lincoln this week could protect the community from shark attacks by identifying shark "hotspots".

Local white shark spotters are being recruited around Eyre Peninsula to help researchers develop a better understanding of the creature and assist in conservation and public safety.

The new Conservation Council SA program "White Sharks Count" was launched on Tuesday by shark conservationist Rodney Fox.

Mr Fox said information collected through the "White Sharks Count" program about shark movements could provide enough information to identify "hotspots" for the creatures at particular times of the year.

He said Port Lincoln was already known as a "hotspot" for white sharks but there was a lot yet to be learnt about their movements.

"Our window in the ocean is very small," he said.

"It is very expensive and hard to find out where these white sharks go."

Fishers and recreational water users are an essential part of the program.

Conservation Council of SA coast and marine coordinator Chris Ball said reporting sightings of white sharks was the only way to find out more about the species.

People can report sightings by phone or on the internet at www.ccsa.asn.au/wsc.

"White sharks are regarded as being the most feared predator in the world today," Mr Fox said.

Mr Fox was dragged into the shark world 43 years ago by a white shark attack.

"I wanted to get back into the water after my attack but I was pretty scared so I had to learn about sharks," he said.

Eyre Peninsula Natural Resource Management is funding White Sharks Count on Eyre Peninsula but the Conservation Council hopes to secure other funding to expand the program statewide.

Anyone who sees a shark is asked to report the sighting to Fishwatch on 1800 065 522 or Dr Kate Rodda on 8683 2555.

Spotters are asked to take photographs if possible of the whole shark, the dorsal fin, any tags and any distinguishing marks.

Researchers need to know the location, date and time of the sighting, shark length and sex, behaviour of the shark, species, weather conditions and possible sources of shark attraction.

Shark sign supported
SHARK attack survivor and conservationist Rodney Fox has supported calls from several locals for signage warning of the dangers of sharks in local waters.

In Port Lincoln for the launch of a new shark research program "White Sharks Count", Mr Fox said if people were warned about the danger they could make their own mind up about whether or not they wanted to go in the water.

"Because of the large number of sharks that have been sighted nearby it's only right there should be a message so people can make their own decision."

Mr Fox said by putting the Fishwatch phone number on the sign it would also help to promote the new research program.

Kaylene Dufek is one of three women who have started a petition to have signs warning about sharks erected on the Port Lincoln foreshore.

Mrs Dufek said they had received overwhelming support from the community since they distributed their petition two weeks ago.

Mr Fox said tourists being scared away by the signs should not be a major concern.

"How many people actually swim?" he said.

"How many people are you going to scare away?

"If you don't tell them you're in trouble, if you do tell them you're in trouble," Mr Fox said.

If a siren was to be installed to warn people if a shark was spotted off the beach Mr Fox said it would have to be operated by the proper authorities such as police or surf life saving to ensure that the sighting was correctly identified as a shark and the siren was not misused.

Source: portlincoln.yourguide.com.au


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