The Queensland Fisheries and Marine Department has satellite-tagged a 2.4 metre great white shark in an attempt to make Australian waters safer. It is the first great white to be tagged in an ongoing research project that monitors the movements of dangerous shark species.
“The shark, known to researchers as Rachael, is the first great white to be satellite tagged in Queensland waters,” Fisheries Minister Craig Wallace said in a statement.
“The shark was fitted with an acoustic and satellite tag and released after being caught on a drumline at Narrow Neck on the Gold Coast this month.” (Amusingly, the monster was reportedly named ‘Rachael’ after one of the researcher’s sisters.)
In addition to great whites, bull sharks and tiger sharks have also been earmarked for the project. The sharks’ movements will be tracked through acoustic listening stations along the Queensland coast, as well as via satellite. Researchers hope to tag and track up to 150 sharks by the end of the project.
A 'ping' for every shark
Program head scientist Dr Jonathan Werry said the acoustic tags fitted to the sharks’ dorsal fins emit a series of ’pings’ that are picked up and recorded by underwater acoustic listening stations. Each shark has its own unique 'ping'.
“Using this technology, tagged sharks can be detected underwater, while satellite tracking tags will be used to enable movements of the large sharks outside the area of the listening stations,” Werry said.
Satellite tagging is nothing new of course: the technology has been used to track sharks since the early 1990s. However, this is the first time it has been deployed specifically to protect beach goers.
“Bather safety is our number-one priority in Queensland and this project will improve our knowledge of shark movements in inshore waters,” Wallace stated.
"This research provides both seasonal and spatial movement data, giving us a better understanding of the behaviour of dangerous shark species. This in turn will allow us to improve our shark control program to better protect our beaches.”
Shark enthusiasts will soon be able to track Rachael’s movements via Dr Werry's website. According to the last satellite transmission, the beast is currently located south of Evans Heads in New South Wales.
We’ve all heard the pro-shark statistics before (apparently, you have a higher chance of getting struck by lightning than being eaten by a great white) – but this extra layer of protection is sure to be welcomed; particularly by anyone who has seen Jaws.
“To reduce the risk of a shark attack, people should avoid swimming near river mouths, in canals, artificial lakes and waterways, particularly early in the morning, evening and at night and after substantial rainfall," cautions the Queensland government website.