Victoria’s intelligence gathering helicopter – the Firebird 300 – flew alongside the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters this summer, conducting coastal patrols for the first time to assist Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter crews.
Usually used to assist emergency services with supplying real-time airborne information in fires, storms and floods, the Firebird 300 has expanded its capability to include shark spotting, undertaking several intelligence gathering flights in December and January.
The aerial patrols enabled crews to test the camera equipment on board and configure it to suit water conditions rather than the normal land environment.
LSV CEO Nigel Taylor said it was an encouraging example of combining agency resources to provide additional preventative operations to protect Victorians.
“We are trying to cover 800km of coastline and given the high number of shark sightings, having access to additional resources helped us to be extra vigilant,’’ he said.
“It was also a really useful exercise in terms of integration of LSV crew on the Firebird 300, which allowed us to test its technology and equipment for future use.
“As an example we found that the cameras work better with low visibility, whereas the eyes of our observers work better in a high visibility environment.”
Victorian beaches experienced an unprecedented increase in shark sightings over the summer season, with over 100 individual sharks spotted on LSV crews’ busiest day.
A surge in baitfish numbers thanks to unseasonal rainfall at the end of 2016 is one of the possible reasons for the increase in shark sightings, according to Fisheries Victoria. The spring downpours washed more nutrients than usual into the ocean, boosting fish populations.
For information on shark sightings and safety tips visit: http://lsv.com.au/life_saving_services/shark-safety
The VicEmergency website www.emergency.vic.gov.au and VicEmergency app provide the latest information and alerts for shark sightings at patrolled beaches as well as beach closures.