Innovative Shark Detection System for California?

Jason Lock

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Updated 190d ago

Last year, eight people were attacked by sharks in California. Thankfully, none were fatal. But a leading expert on shark incidents says the population of the men in grey suits is actually on the rise and spiked in 2017.

Ralph Collier, founder of the Shark Research Committee said he was surprised that there weren't more attacks, given the rise in shark numbers. Of course, attacks are rare, but if there could be a non-invasive way to better alert beach-goers to whether a shark is in the vicinity or not, then is that something you'd like to see?

You've probably heard of the Clever Buoy system that launched in Australia a few years back? It's a detection system warning beach users about nearby sharks and their proximity to shore. The devices were trialled off Bondi in 2016, returning positive results. Think of the tech as a virtual shark net, and you're kind of there.

Right now, hall of fame surfer Ian Cairns is working as a brand ambassador for the company in order to bring them to the Californian coastline – after having a number of shark encounters while surfing with his kids.

The campaign aims to raise $25,000 through Indiegogo. Go HERE to donate. We checked in with Ian to talk about the buoys and his reasons for bringing them to the Cali coastline.

Why do you want to bring this tech State-side?
IC: I have seen the rapid increase in juvenile white shark populations here in CA and it’s so reminiscent of a similar increase in Western Australia where there have been 15 fatalities since 2002.

How effective is it?
The Clever Buoy virtual wall provides a huge amount of 24/7 data on ocean life and all shark intrusions. It has over a 90 per cent accuracy level at the moment, which is increasing as the software continues to learn.

Given it was launched in Australia, what are the complexities of bringing it over here?
Environmental Permits are complicated and hard to secure but because it has already passed EPA approvals in Australia, we know it’s non-invasive detection, not a deterrent system.

City Beach location design.

City Beach location design.

How do these buoys work?
The Clever Buoy is networked into an array of multi-band sonars positioned on the sea floor. The sonar array works 24/7 from ocean floor to sea surface and this beam extends almost 100-meters out into the ocean.

This is the virtual wall. Anything that swims into this beam is seen and the Clever Buoy processes the information and sends live reports to the phone App.

So once the money is secured, what next? You’ll need some approval to get this in the right place. Any beaches identified where these would work best?
We have selected Corona Del Mar in Newport Beach as the site of our test deployment. This location is the site of a non-fatal shark attack and is flanked by rocks on the south end and a stone Jerry on the north end, providing a great contained area for Clever Buoy to oversee.

Installing the buoy to an under water frame.

Installing the buoy to an under water frame.

Have you had an encounter with a shark before that spurred you to launch this campaign?
I have had three incidents out surfing at San Onofre with my kids, once with Ethan, with a juvenile swimming immediately between us and twice with Malachai, seeing a large shark jumping outside and another time with a 10ft shark out with us.

I have surfed all over Australia, in the sharkiest of waters and, personally, love the idea of being alone in the wilderness. I hate the danger to my children. That’s why I found these guys and am working to make this happen here in CA. Before it’s as dangerous as surfing in West Oz.