As Southern California grapples with an increased presence of sharks close to the coast — and on the heels of two attacks in less than a year — officials on Friday, Sept. 22, will speak in support of a pilot project using early-warning technology.
The system, to help prevent shark attacks along California’s coastline, is already in place in Australia.
A news release sent out by the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said the system uses “new, early-warning technology to notify lifeguards that a shark has entered waters enjoyed by swimmers and surfers.”
Joining Rohrabacher, Friday, will be Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon, former world champion surfer Ian Cairns, and representatives of Shark Mitigation Systems, the Australian company that developed the technology.
Cairns, an Australian who now lives in Laguna Beach, has been watching the shark situation closely. He said he thinks Southern California is experiencing what Western Australia has gone through in the past decade. Since 2002, there have been 15 shark-related fatalities there, he said.
He scouted out this company in Australia that uses software to create a virtual barrier around surf and swim areas. It recognizes when a sea creature is greater than 6 feet long, and uses an algorithm to determine if its patterns and behaviors are similar to that of a great white.
Lifeguards are notified by text message and can follow up by heading out to get a closer look to determine if they need to shut down a beach.
“I love the idea of being in the ocean and the wilderness, but we have to understand there’s an increased risk here,” Cairns said. “We have a growing population of carnivorous animals.”
Great whites were first spotted in unusually large numbers in the South Bay about five years ago, before grouping together in Huntington Beach and Sunset about two years ago.This year, they made their way south and stayed off the San Clemente and Dana Point coast.
Leeanne Ericson, a mother of three, was swimming at San Onofre State Beach when she was bit by a shark last April and is still undergoing rehabilitation to use her right leg.
“If we have to live with it, let’s install this technology at the most popular places people surf —…