Beach safety boost as aerial shark patrols take flight

Friday 27 November, 2020

Eyes in the sky will protect South Australian beachgoers looking to escape sweltering heat this weekend as fixed wing shark patrols take off for summer duty.

Hartwig Air will commence aerial patrols tomorrow (Saturday 28 November) and will continue through to 26 April 2021 (Anzac Day public holiday).

Patrols will conduct flyovers from North Haven to Rapid Head on the Fleurieu Peninsula between 10am and 7.30pm seven-days-a-week.

Hartwig Air will extend its safety coverage to the state’s South Coast – from Rosetta Head (The Bluff) – to the Murray Mouth on weekends, public holidays and during school holidays.

Provisions are also in place to conduct additional early morning patrols during the VACSWIM program.

“We know South Australians love to visit the beach during summer to cool off and we have some of the most picturesque coasts in the world,” Minister for Emergency Services Vincent Tarzia said.

“The fixed wing shark patrol is operated by a three-person crew and is a critical safety net that protects South Australians from sharks at some of our most popular beaches.

“Vigilance is still key for swimmers. Be aware of your surroundings and, where possible, swim between the red and yellow flags. This is the area that our dedicated volunteer surf lifesavers are watching most.”

When a shark is sighted, a siren will sound and the aircraft will circle above the threat’s location. On hearing the siren, swimmers should leave the water quickly but calmly.

Shark activity increases in warmer months due to the migration of fish into the St Vincent Gulf.

Last week, a 2.5 metre Bronze Whaler was spotted about 200m offshore at Brighton Beach. More than 50 shark sightings have been reported to the Department of Primary Industries and Regions this financial year. Five of those reports occurred this month.

In October, Surf Life Saving South Australia (SLSSA) volunteers returned to beach patrols. The SLSSA Westpac helicopter will provide aerial support during scheduled community aquatic events, which are expected to run from next month until late February 2021.

The Marshall Liberal Government supports the fixed wing shark patrol – and SLSSA Westpac helicopter – through the Community Emergency Services Fund (CESF). Aerial patrols have been safeguarding high-risk beaches since January 2003.

SLSSA will continue to boost its water safety capability with the use of drones.

The State Government is also asking people to exercise caution during this period of extreme heat, with the mercury tipped to reach 40C today and tomorrow.

The South Australian State Emergency Service (SES) advises people to keep cool, drink plenty of water and check on the vulnerable.

“Keeping hydrated, staying in a cool place and avoiding strenuous exercise during the hottest parts of the day are important during periods of extreme heat,” SES Chief Officer Chris Beattie said.

“We should also be thinking about those that may be more vulnerable, the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions, by checking on them.

“Under no circumstances should children or pets be left in a parked car, even if only for a short time.”