A new project to create an automated shark detection system is currently being developed by Shark Spotters Cape Town in an effort to enhance shark safety on beaches.

City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment Marian Nieuwoudt comments on the promises this new system could hold.

“Shark Spotters has been at the forefront of sustainable shark bite mitigation measures worldwide since it started in 2004. We are excited by the new possibilities that this automated shark spotting research project presents and hope it will result in a system that enhances shark safety at beaches across the city.”

The Shark Spotters, Institute for Communities and Wildlife Africa and PatternLab SaRL, a Switzerland-based research and development company specialising in data science and computer-aided vision are working hand-in-hand to create the automated shark detection system.

Fixed cameras will be placed above Cape Town beaches with the system when it is in place, recording any possible sighting.

Since 2004, Shark Spotters has recorded over 2 500 shark sightings and helped keep local beachgoers safe.

The development of an automated shark detection system would greatly help the organisation to overcome various limitations such as human error and the need for higher natural elevation (mountains).

The project team has begun gathering data on Fish Hoek beach, capturing footage of sharks for analysis to develop the software. A decoy shark is being used during the test period, due to the unreliable nature of shark sightings.

In order to adequately develop the automated system, it will be tested against environmental and experimental variables to asses the potential impact environmental and other factors may have on the devices. Results of the automated system’s performance will be compared with the performance of the current human-based spotting system.

Shark spotters in Cape Town will not be replaced by the automated system, which is simply aimed at assisting with giving spotters a more accurate and reliable way of detecting sharks.

The research project will run for 18 months and the City is hopeful that the concept will be seen to completion.

Funded by the Eurostars programme, an international scheme which supports innovative project led by research and development, the Automated Shark Spotting project is the first of its kind to be provided financial aid by the programme under the department of Science and Technology.

Also read: Shark spotters keep local beaches safe


Picture: Shark Spotters

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