Curtin Uniat Mullaloo

Beach­LAB – Is a joint col­lab­o­ra­tion by Research and the com­mu­nity which com­mencedMullaloo-SLSC-Logo-colour-transparent.thumbnail in 2013 [between Curtin Uni­ver­sity; Cen­tre for Marine Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (CMST) & Mul­laloo SLSC]

Started in 2012 after an attack at their beach, the team at Mul­laloo Surf Club set out to gather the facts from the research done all over the world on Sharks. From this, many ques­tions began to arise.Beach­LAB is a non-polit­i­cal work group whose goal is to pro­duce real­is­tic detec­tion and pro­tec­tion solu­tions for swim­mers in poten­tial shark threat areas of coast.

Cur­rently the tag detec­tion receivers have abil­ity to detect in all con­di­tions 24/7 through­out the entire day: For noise rea­sons sirens are set from sun up (dawn) to sun set (dusk).

EG Sea breezes in Perth reach up to 25 – 30 knots caus­ing white caps, large swell, tur­bid­ity (Sandy) of the water, shim­mer of sun light and move­ment of weed etc, which means nor­mal sur­veil­lance meth­ods are ren­dered inef­fec­tive or com­pletely use­less.

A clear view is not pos­si­ble when the water becomes stirred up with sand caused by swell or sea breezes with­out the use of mul­ti­spec­tral lenses. This means most days dur­ing sum­mer are unable to see into the water and can be as early as mid-morn­ing. Mother Nature had designed sharks (some are apex preda­tor species) to be cam­ou­flaged in the ocean from view. The nat­u­ral colours of sharks are designed to provide natures cam­ou­flage and allow them to blend into the ocean envi­ron­ment.


The two (2) Beach­LAB Buoys were spon­sored by RPS Oceano­graphic divi­sion MetO­cean

The cost of deploy­ing each detec­tion unit is around $25,000 – $30,000.


The effec­tive­ness of air­craft spot­ting due to ocean con­di­tions, sun­light and wind is less that 15% [See NSW Uni study on spot­ter effec­tive­ness.]

Sonar is capa­ble of detect­ing all sea life. The tech­nol­ogy is cur­rently used in mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial appli­ca­tions. Curtin Uni­ver­sity is cur­rently study­ing the best alter­na­tives that can be used on any beach loca­tion.

Mobile Phone Appli­ca­tions – Most peo­ple do NOT take expen­sive mobile phones onto the beach due to theft and water/sand don’t mix well with most phone tech­nolo­gies.

Some app’s are sup­posed to “inform” the pub­lic of immi­nent dan­ger so they can make a respon­si­ble choice. The facts are that only one kind of live alert works and that is the tra­di­tional shark siren to clear the water. After all, what more do you want other than be alerted in the water to get out when a shark is detected. Peo­ple do not take phones into the water and con­tin­u­ally check to see if a delayed alert or report is rel­e­vant to their beach.

App’s that help beach­go­ers know when it is safe to go back into the water are an after the fact waste of time. The urgency is detec­tion and hence pro­tec­tion, not when it’s safe to go back in when no one can see the shark.

Reduc­ing the risk to swim­mers is a sim­ple as “detec­tion and pro­tec­tion.”

Phase one com­pleted Tag detec­tion

Tag detec­tion is already work­ing and proven by Beach­LAB who have had trial units work­ing since Novem­ber 2013 off the local swim­ming beach in front of the surf club. This has been expanded to two units cov­er­ing over a kilo­me­tre of beach and more receivers can be placed along the coast.

The Beach­LAB team have been apply­ing evi­dence based research and sci­ence as well as prac­ti­cal life­sav­ing knowl­edge to ver­ify and val­i­date truly effec­tive detec­tion and pro­tec­tion for beach going swim­mers.

Research tested include:

  1. Effec­tive range of implanted tags (Inside the sharks body with up to 200kg of scalene fluid sur­round­ing the sig­nal)
  2. The effects of sea growth (Bio foul) on the instru­ments. Algae and sea­weed as well as bar­na­cles on receivers. (Growth can be a cen­tre meter per week in sum­mer)
  3. Effec­tive range of the detec­tors (to ensure ade­quate cov­er­age and over­lap along larger dis­tances of coast.)

Beach­LAB is look­ing at large scale beach cov­er­age for detec­tion and alert rather than indi­vid­ual pro­tec­tion units used by divers and some surfers. The vast major­ity of beach going pub­lic will not be wear­ing devices that shield or pre­vent attack due to indi­vid­ual cost and oper­abil­ity.

Early detec­tion pro­vides the best and safest imme­di­ate pro­tec­tion.

WAITTA NF logo Society CommunityTo view the pre­sen­ta­tion from the WAITTA award please click here.

To view the Beach­LAB pre­sen­ta­tion please Click here (2mb PDF).