Esperance shark debate reignites as footage surfaces

Drone footage of a four metre Great White shark at Fourth Beach has prompted calls from filmmaker Dave Riggs for better surveillance measures at local beaches.

The video, which has since been viewed more than 350,000 times, shows the shark circling a boat 100 metres from shore on Saturday December 9.

Mr Riggs was notified about the shark from the boat user and said he could not see the animal from the shoreline.

“It just goes to show you how stealthy these animals are and the need to install a tethered drone in the corner of Twilight Beach,” he said.

“From what I saw from 150 metres up, if you had one of these systems in place, I think you’d be well placed to see the animal coming.

“We have got a unique situation here because we do have some of the best, cleanest, clearest beaches in the world and, when these big animals come close to shore at our most popular swimming beaches, we can see them from an elevated vantage point.”​

Surf Life Saving WA implemented drones in early December at beaches in and around Perth, including Secret Harbour, Cottesloe, City Beach, Quinns-Mindarie and Mullaloo.

Esperance Goldfields Surf Life Saving Club president Tracey Lewis said they had considered using a drone but it was a serious financial investment.

“It’s not a simplistic thing, there is more to this than meets the eye and we have to consider how different our beach scope is and training volunteers to operate them.”

The club patrols the coastline between fourth beach and dolphin’s cove on Sundays and public holidays. 

Ms Lewis said unless someone was available to operate the drone during busy periods, it would only operate during normal patrolled times. 

“We have to be rational about this,” she said.

“Yes they [sharks] are out there, but I feel confident that Twilight Beach is still a safe place to be and that we’re fully equipped to look after our beach.”

Mr Riggs said the $10,000 drone system cost the same amount as a helicopter does for every hour used.

“You buy a drone like this and you’ve got a huge section of Twilight covered essentially,” he said.

“For a $10,000 outlay, it would be a really sensible thing to do.

“We need to learn to coexist with these animals, it’s irresponsible of us not to do that.”