Light planes and helicopters fly over west coast Australian beaches hoping to alert lifeguards to great white sharks posing a threat to bathers.

Surveillance is expensive — and sometimes discounted as just a gesture to show that governments are doing something to guard against attacks by the most feared fish in the world.

The better way

A better way is to tag the sharks with a transponder that sends location details via satellite to onshore monitors, who can then inform beachgoers by text message or email that sharks are near.

Within two years 100 great whites will be tagged in a world-first programme that authorities hope will save lives - or at least give beachgoers greater confidence that their safety isn’t being left completely to chance.

“I think the public’s fear of sharks stems largely from a fear of the unknown,” project manager Rory McAuley said.

“Any information we can find out about the real risk of people encountering sharks at the beach will hopefully alleviate people’s concerns to some degree.”

So far 70 sharks have been tagged and work begun on a network of 20 satellite receiving stations.

Great whites are a protected species in Australia and their numbers are said to be dwindling. — DPA