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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Wednesday 15 March 2023

New river tagging program to include bull sharks

    • ​Automated shark monitoring receivers to be investigated for use in the Swan Canning Estuary
    • Combined research efforts to focus on bull shark movements
The McGowan Government will extend its highly successful shark tagging research program to include bull sharks and monitoring in the Swan Canning Estuary. 

The tagging program currently focuses on white sharks which present the greatest risk in southern waters. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has tagged a total of 163 white sharks with 10 tagged this season as part of its Shark Monitoring Network. 

The expanded tagging program to include adult bull sharks and more receivers will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the movements of these and other sharks which may be present in the estuary, which is critical to informing what mitigation measures may prove effective. 

This follows testing by DPIRD which confirmed the presence of bull shark DNA as part of the investigation into the tragic incident involving 16-year-old Stella Berry last month in the Swan River at North Fremantle. The test results have been provided to the Coroner's Office for its report. 

DPIRD will work with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to build on its current research program that includes tagging and tracking movements of juvenile bull sharks in the Swan Canning Estuary. 

Tagging of adult and juvenile bull sharks will operate in the summer and autumn periods. 

DPIRD will also investigate the use of three new acoustic shark monitoring receivers in the river, which will connect to the existing network, providing near real-time notifications of tagged shark activity via the SharkSmart WA app and SharkSmart website to the community. 

The McGowan Government is also continuing to work with local governments along the Swan and Canning rivers on other mitigation strategies including the installation of swimming enclosures at popular swimming spots. The City of Melville has commenced planning to install a swimming enclosure at the Bicton Baths near Fremantle.  

Beach, estuary and river users are encouraged to download the SharkSmart WA app to stay informed. It is also very important for anyone who sees a shark to report it to Water Police​ immediately on 9442 8600. 

Comments attributed to Fisheries Minister Don Punch: 

"DPIRD has not previously tagged any bull sharks as part of the State Government's Shark Monitoring Network program.  

"We know that bull sharks are capable of living in both marine and fresh water and, they give birth in estuaries and river mouths during the warmer summer and early autumn months. 

"It is important to gain a better understanding of shark movements and numbers in the Swan Canning Estuary, while also providing useful information to inform WA's shark hazard mitigation efforts." 

Comments attributed to Environment Minister Reece Whitby: 

"The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions began a research program last year to track juvenile bull sharks within the Swan Canning Riverpark. 

"The expansion of the tagging program will help researchers learn more about the movements of bull sharks and build an evidence-based approach to shark mitigation in our estuaries. 

"The Swan and Canning rivers are a recreational playground. This program will help Western Australians better understand the risks and improve community safety." 

Minister's office - 6552 6900​

Last modified: 15/03/2023 9:36 AM

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