Shark tag research funding knocked back

A proposed shark research program to tag white sharks with sensors that could warn divers of their location has been knocked back.

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) rejected the application for funding, despite a successful pilot program done by the SA Research and Development Institute and local industry.

Abalone Industry Association of SA president Jonas Woolford worked with SARDI researcher Dr Paul Rogers on the project and said they put in an expression of interest with a project scope.

He said the project also involved refining the receiver to make it easier to carry when diving, with the inclusion of a tagging program.

“Because the reality is unless a shark is tagged you won't pick up anything.”

He said part of the issue with getting the program up and running was the amount of money that needed to be invested in tagging a large population of sharks.

“They (FRDC) said the concept was good but it relied on a good majority of the sharks to be tagged.”

Mr Woolford said he was worried for the 22 divers who had seen an increase in shark populations over the last three to four years, which increased the risk of having more encounters.

“What if we could use these receivers and modify them and actually use them as an early warning system for sharks in the area to give us a heads up.”

FRDC communications, trade and marketing manager Peter Horvat said while the project was supported, the issue was knowing how many sharks were actually out there and what the odds were of getting bitten.

“If you're only getting 1 per cent of the total sharks out there, the risk of an encounter still remains very high.”

However Mr Horvat said that as a trial program it was a very interesting and innovative concept. 

Mr Woolford said despite not receiving funding, he was still keen on working with SARDI on future tagging and research programs.

“Because anything to make our work life safer – we're all for it.

“Technology is advancing so fast these days that there very well could be something in the not too distant future that could be used an as early warning system.”