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Byron Bay, awarded 3rd place for ‘Travelers Choice Award’ (Hughes, 2017) in 2010, has 9 outstanding surfing beaches (See Figure 1.1), showing its prominence for its unique ambiance - the “Byron” feeling. Additionally, the abundant festivals and markets held all year round (Hughes, 2017) allure 1.7 million tourists to Byron Bay yearly (Turnbull, 2015). People visit Byron Bay mainly for leisure purposes such as surfing (Makepeace, 2018) as the beaches provide different waves for differing skill levels in surfing (Stanff, n.d.).
While going to beaches allows one to relax (Norwegian Cruise Line, 2015), Byron Bay has one of the most horrifying statistics of shark attacks since 1990, with an estimated 128 attacks (of which 6 fatalities), which is more than twice of Western and Southern Australia (Shark Research Institute's Global Shark Attack File, n.d.), making Byron Bay a perilous place to swim.
Figure 1.1 - Map of Byron Bay, showing the vast number of beaches
WHY FOCUS ON SHARK ATTACKS?
Anyone visiting Byron Bay risks being attacked, evident from the numerous shark attack victims over the years (Taylor, 2017). The following (See Table 1) shows statistics on Byron Bay attacks compared to other places in Australia, showing the severity of the issue.
Table 1 - Statistics on the number of shark attack victims and fatalities
(Shark Research Institute's Global Shark Attack File, n.d.)
New South Wales (NSW), Byron Bay
CAUSES OF SHARK ATTACKS:
Sharks do not hunt humans for food because they are insufficient energy sources, but attack for other reasons (Grabianowski, 2015).
Firstly, sharks can mistake people for their usual prey (Pallardy, n.d.), especially when they lie on their surfboards while dangling their limbs off the edges (See Figure 1.2). Despite sharks having incredible vision, erratic waters and swimsuits still confuse them, resulting in attacks (Pallardy, n.d.).
Fig 1.2 - How a human surfer looks in comparison to a shark’s usual prey (Grabianowski, 2015)
Secondly, sharks’ curiosity of humans prompts them to bite people and their large rows of sharp teeth allows one bite to be sufficient to inflict fatal injuries (Milman, 2015).
Lastly, people are complacent, underestimating their odds of being attacked. They put themselves in danger, entering waters with sharks present and end up getting attacked (Yurcaba, 2015).
CONSEQUENCES OF THE CRISIS:
1. Injuries and Fatalities
Victims have suffered from less severe injuries (See Figures 1.3, 1.4, 1.5) and fortunately survived (Burke, 2016) but some have died of severe blood loss from fatal injuries.
Figure 1.3 - Man who got bitten on his thigh by a shark in Byron Bay (Burke, 2016)
Figure 1.4 - Woman who got bitten on the wrist in Byron Bay
(The Sydney Morning Herald, 2007)
Figure 1.5 - Man bitten on waist by a Great White in Byron Bay (The Australian, 2018)
2. Drop In Tourism Rates
The rise in shark attacks caused visits to Byron Bay to plunge (Ironside, 2015) as they fear falling victims to sharks, as evident from below:
⅕ of the region’s hotel and tourism operators had bookings cancelled by tourists
a retailer had 50% downturn in sales of surf accessories
a survey conducted with 89 of the region’s hotel and tourism operators reported a median loss of $25,000 (Calcino, 2015).
SIGNIFICANCE OF CRISIS:
If this situation continues, the livelihoods of people in tourism industries would be adversely impacted due to financial struggles from the lack of business while all those attacks could have been prevented if safety measures were taken by beach-goers.
EVALUATION OF EXISTING MEASURES:
Table 2 - Analysis of existing measures to prevent shark attacks in Byron Bay
Evaluation ( +/- )
Installation of shark nets
These nets are submerged about 200m from the shore (See Figure 1.6), designed to catch sharks (Clarke, n.d.) and provide authorities with alerts when a shark gets caught (Pawle, 2016).
Figure 1.6 - Image of a shark net arrangement (Clarke, n.d.)
Figure 1.7 - Image of a shark caught in a shark net (Brody, 2008)
(+) Alerts authorities to either remove it or evacuate people from the beach when a shark gets caught.
(-) The nets trap threatened species instead, such as Bottlenose Dolphins, subsequently damaging
Byron Bay’s environment and reputation as a popular tourist destination (Medhora, 2018).
2) Shark Spotting Programmes (Turnbull, 2016)
Drones are flown over Byron Bay (See Figure 1.8) to search for sharks using image recognition software. Real-time videos are immediately sent to lifeguards who take appropriate actions to ensure safety by sounding alarms or evacuating people from the waters if sharks are spotted.
(Kelaher, et al., 2017)
Figure 1.8 - Image of the drones used for shark spotting (The Japan Times News, 2017)
(+) Provision of timely information on the presence of sharks, preventing potential casualties
(+) Harmless to marine creatures
(-) Unaccessible everywhere simultaneously.
(-) Poor vision due to unclear waters
(-) Hefty cost of hiring manpower for check-ups.
(-) Negligence of warnings
(-) Limited memory capacity means constant maintenance, thus cumbersome.
3) Installation of SMART drumlines
They comprise an anchor and rope, two buoys, and a satellite-linked communications unit attached to a trace and baited hook (See Figure 1.9) (Department of Primary Industries, n.d.), which use magnetic triggers to message researchers when a shark is caught (See Figure 1.9). Contractors will then tag and move the shark away from shore and swimmers (Clifford, 2017).
Figure 1.9 how SMART drumlines are arranged (Department of Primary Industries, n.d.)
(+) Sharks are moved from where most people are.
(-) Captured more non-target species like Green Turtles, defeating its purpose and contributing to endangerment.
4) Signboards to alert tourists of possible shark attacks
These signages feature illustrations of sharks (See Figure 1.10) to signify their presence at the beach (Gold Coast Bulletin, 2015).
Figure 1.10 - Signages to show the presence of sharks on NSW beaches (Gold Coast Bulletin, 2015)
(+) Warns people of the risk of entering the waters
(-) Costly to put signposts on every beach
(-) Ignorance of signages makes people more susceptible to attacks.
The learning points from examining the existing measures (Table 2) helped us scope our proposed solutions to attempt addressing the limitations in these.
Table 3: Insights from existing measures and possible application to proposed strategies
What We Liked
KF #1: Effects of Shark Nets
It prevents sharks from getting too close to shore.
We need solutions that prevent endangered species from getting trapped in the nets meant for sharks.
KF#2: Effects of Signage
It warns swimmers of the dangers of sharks in the sea (Gold Coast Bulletin, 2015).
We need more aesthetically-pleasing signs that are more informative to attract people’s attention and get them to adhere.
KF#3: Effects of shark spotting
Using drones to spot sharks reduces manpower usage. (Turnbull, 2016 )
We should apply the effectiveness of real-time feed of the drones to attain timely information of the presence of sharks and cover blind spots of beaches.
LOCATION: Samburu National Reserve, Central Kenya
We chose this case study because the animals in both our chosen real-world problem and case study pose similar crisis, wherein the number of shark attacks and elephants attacking farmers’ crops are surging. Also, we are inspired by the preventive measures taken to tackle elephant attacks as it helped shape our proposed solutions by considering possible applications of insights drawn (See Table 4).
Table 4: Elephants in Central Kenya
What we like
KF #1: Usage of wireless speaker system producing sounds of bees
Elephants are afraid of bees. Therefore, their noises can scare elephants away, preventing more crops from damage, allowing farmers to have more produce to sell to support their livelihoods
Since sharks are afraid of orcas, we can apply the knowledge of bee sounds repelling elephants by installing orca sound waves into our specialised swimsuits to repel sharks.
KF#2: Usage of shiny colours to deter elephants
Thai farmers hang old/unwanted CDs from strings which rotate in the wind and reflect light, either from the moon or from a torch to scare elephants away, suggesting that they are afraid of shiny or glittery colours.
Similarly, since sharks are attracted to bright colours, we can do the opposite and get swimmers to wear dull-coloured swimsuits to reduce their chances of getting attacked.
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