'Shark sonar' trial announced by NSW Govt

AN EXPERIMENTAL shark detection device will be trialled by the NSW Government as part of its $16 million strategy to stop shark attacks, Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair has announced this morning,

But the "Clever Buoy" technology, which uses sonar to detect sharks, will not be tested off the North Coast.

The new trial will take place north of Newcastle, near white shark hot spot Port Stephens, about 1km offshore from Hawks Nest.

The Clever Buoy was developed by ASX listed company Shark Mitigation Systems.

In a statement from Minister Blair, the technology is described as using "sonar and sophisticated software to detect the distinctive movement patterns made by sharks and transmit critical information to local beach authorities".

Mr Blair said the government would test the system's capability to detect white sharks in field conditions in collaboration with the University of Technology Sydney.

The test will use six underwater video cameras positioned next to the buoys to check the accuracy of their sonar readings, over a four week period.

The five hour battery life of the cameras means they will have to be replaced each day.

UTS Sydney marine biologist William Gladstone told the Sydney Morning Herald that Port Stephens area was a nursery ground for great whites and a "congregation site" for the predators.

"We're not getting in the water, We are going to deploy (the cameras) from a boat," he said.

The video cameras would ensure the animals detected by the buoys are sharks and not other big fish, or dolphins.

Professor Gladstone said the hope was the buoys could be deployed to cover a beach area completely with sonar, and send a message to lifeguards if a shark entered the area. 

This research collaboration follows a successful eight week trial in Bondi earlier this year.

Mr Blair said: "The information gathered from this research collaboration will help us understand this advancing technology for shark species, and how we can use it to give NSW beachgoers the best available protection".

"The way Clever Buoys are integrated into the NSW Shark Management Strategy will depend in part on the nature of the beach and conditions in each locality."

The Clever Buoy also has a radio receiver fitted to record information about any sharks nearby which have been previously tagged.