WSL Employs Perth-Based Clever Buoy For Shark Prevention At J-Bay
We remember Jeffrey’s Bay, 2015. Mick Fanning was bumped from his board by a curious – maybe hungry – shark, and the surf world stopped dead. The “attack” went on to make global headlines and for the next few weeks, in bars, the lineup and the news, it was all you heard about… and if you live in the Pacific Northwest, ZAF or West Oz, thought about.
Fast forward a few months to a WSL meeting held during the Quiksilver Pro, France, where the top 34 had a vote on returning to the world class point break on South Africa’s Eastern Cape. There, Mick and Julian Wilson led the discussion on whether the WSL should continue hosting the event in 2016. Everyone except Gabriel Medina and Jadson Andre voted in favour of J-Bay remaining on tour.
Fast forward another eight months and we’re closing in on the anniversary of the “Shark Attack Heard Round The World” and with it The J-Bay Open – which kicks of July 6. And although the attack did wonders for the WSL’s traffic, and will bring more eyes on the upcoming event, nobody wants to see a repeat of last year. The worry for competitors being mauled by a shark has never been so pronounced. After Kanoa Igarashi and co saw a large shark during an evening session prior to the Margaret River event, the WSL upped their shark prevention plan and kept two skis in the lineup fitted with sonar tracking, monitors and lights to patrol the break… And, for Jeffrey’s Bay they’ve employed Perth’s Shark Mitigation Systems (SMS) to deploy their Clever Buoy at the event.
SMS co-founder Craig Anderson (nope, not the same one) is, needless to say, pretty jazzed on the deal. “We are very excited to be working with the pro surfing league to showcase our technology,” he told The Australian. “This will help place our technology on the world stage and show what it can do to keep surfers and other oceans users safe in the water.” That, and their share price surged 17.5 percent after the announcement of the deal.
SMS is a company that recently-retired Taj Burrow has involved himself with. “I’ve said it a lot and it’s hard to walk down the street at the moment without people talking about sharks,” Taj told The West Australian. “For good reason. There’s been a lot of sightings and a lot of attacks and that’s one of the main reasons I became involved with this shark mitigation company. I think shark mitigation will be a more humane way to minimise the risk.” As opposed to the traditional method of drum lines and shark culls.
The Clever Buoy is a marine buoy (obviously) that bobs beyond the surf line and sends wireless signals back to shore. According to SMS, every fish in the ocean has their own unique “fingerprint” – particularly sharks – which is the way they swim. The buoy recognises these patterns and sends an alert when a shark is present.
The first tests were run at Bondi Beach and were "an overwhelming success,” said the Australian Professional Lifeguard Association, who oversaw the trial. “The buoy logged and alerted numerous shark detections, many of which were able to be positively validated through visual identifications by the lifeguards.”
The event will be on at J-Bay with shark prevention at its peak. And as the WSL plays ads on their webcast featuring Mick pointing one finger in the air in ominous colour at J-Bay with a voiceover stating, “We were always coming back.” The only question is: With the healthy amount of sea-life for whom J-Bay is home, will the buoy end up throwing a wrench into the event due to false alarms?