THE NSW Government's shark surveillance program has sighted 46 deadly sharks and triggered 78 water evacuations along the North Coast over Christmas, newly released data shows.
Releasing data from drone trials today, NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said pilots flew, in total, 92,929km over the holiday period, using sirens and a PA system to warn surfers.
Weather permitting, drone flights took place every day of the school holidays at Ballina, Lennox Head, Evans Head, Redhead and Kiama.
"The drone trial sighted 46 potentially dangerous sharks, while our helicopter crews reported 525 - on 167 occasions, the helicopter crews notified beach authorities when a shark was in close proximity to beachgoers," Mr Blair said.
"A total of 78 water evacuations were initiated by helicopter crews when sharks were within 100m of water users, eight evacuations were also made by drones."
Mr Blair said the data highlighted the effectiveness of the shark surveillance program to reduce the risk of shark attacks on NSW beaches.
"As drone technology continues to rapidly develop and the cost of operating them declines, it presents a unique opportunity for the NSW Government to work with local governments and explore options for their future use in shark mitigation measures," Mr Blair said.
The report comes as Australian electrical shark deterrent device company, Shark Shields', managing director Lindsay Lyon announces his topic: "can sharks be taught not to attack humans?" as part of a panel discussion with at the International Surfing Symposium, to be held on the Gold Coast on Monday and Tuesday.
Mr Lyon claims Shark Shields for surfers and scuba divers can 'teach' sharks to keep away from popular beach breaks using Pavlovian conditioning.
"You do not get to the top of the food chain being an idiot," Mr Lyon said.
"If a shark's electrical receptors spasm uncontrollably from the electrical deterrent every time it swims by a surf break, will it stop swimming by that particular break.
"If every time the shark comes to north wall Ballina it gets a headache, from being hit with ten surfers wearing a deterrent, the sharks will remember.
"It's no different to the sharks following the trawlers coming into the Ballina river mouth; they remember.
"We are working on technology that may enable that to transmit larger areas."
Another device dropped into the ocean to discharge an electrical field to deter sharks was also canvassed by state media today.
But NSW Department of Primary Industries said a suite of measures was already in place in the region, including shark nets, SMART drumlines, VR4G listening stations, drone and helicopter aerial surveillance.
"Grants to support advances in technology will cover projects in the research and development and field demonstration phases," a spokesperson said.
"Projects that are solely review-based, or focus on improving commercial readiness and commercial viability of existing technology will not be considered."
The shark nets removed from Ballina and Lennox Head over the weekend due to strong swells have not yet been redeployed.
"DPI is continuing to monitor marine weather conditions and Bureau of Meteorology forecasts," a spokesperson said.
For more information, http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/sharks/management/annual-competitive-grants-program