Say Good-bye to Culling: Australia Invests in Tech to Prevent Shark Attacks

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People who fear sharks are lurking in the ocean—ready to attack and kill at a moment’s notice—are often reminded that you’re far more likely to die from choking on a hot dog or while taking a selfie. Nonetheless, an increase in shark attacks has left Australian beach-goers afraid of the water.

As part of a five-year plan to protect swimmers and surfers, the state of New South Wales announced Sunday that it’s investing $16 million in shark-tracking technology.

To date, New South Wales has counted 13 shark attacks in 2015, with one fatality. Last year, there were only three attacks, but two were fatal.

“We are proud to be the first jurisdiction anywhere in the world to adopt an integrated approach toward keeping our beaches safe,” Niall Blair, Australia’s minister for primary industries, said in a press release.

Beginning in December—Australia’s summer and tourist season—aerial drones will be used to monitor the waters. Along with drone and helicopter surveillance, barrier nets, and sonar, nearly half the funds will be set aside to test out new technologies. Some of the money will be used for community outreach, including a shark detection smartphone app, which tracks tagged sharks.

This differs drastically from the state of Western Australia’s controversial plan to stop shark attacks by killing them. Fifty sharks were killed in the state’s 2014 culling program, and the practice drew ire from citizens and environmentalists alike. Not only did the cull fail to capture any great white sharks—known as the most dangerous of the species—but even if it had, conservationists note that killing off animals at the top of the food chain can drastically alter the entire ecosystem. Research published earlier this month found that killing off sharks fuels climate change, as an overpopulation of their prey species will create an increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

Officials in New South Wales do not plan to kill the predators.

“We don’t cull sharks in New South Wales,” Blair told the Australian Broadcasting Company. “That’s why we’ve gone for a look into some of the new technologies and other suites of measures we can implement, and that’s what this response is about. It’s been led by our scientists.”

This story was originally published on Take Part.


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