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The City of Cape Town Launches New Automated Shark Detection Project


White Shark

A new automated shark detection project aimed at developing a low-cost computer-aided vision shark detection algorithm to be used on fixed cameras above Cape Town’s beaches has been launched.

The Shark Spotters and the Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa at the University of Cape Town in partnership with Switzerland-based research and development company PatternLab Sarl are all collaborators in the project to improve beach water safety.

According to the City of Cape Town, the Shark Spotters programme has significantly improved water user safety at its operating beaches in Cape Town, having recorded more than 2 000 shark sightings since its inception in 2004.

Limitations

“The development of the automated shark spotting system will build upon this strong foundation and help overcome some of the limitations the programme currently experiences including the need for natural elevation and the potential for human fatigue and error,” the statement read.

“Shark Spotters has been at the forefront of sustainable shark bite mitigation measures worldwide since it started in 2004,” said Western Cape MEC for spatial planning and environment Marian Nieuwoudt.

Nieuwoudt said the province was excited by the possibilities the new system would present and hoped “it will result in a system that enhances shark safety at beaches across the city”.

Field work on the project has begun in Fish Hoek and involves the collection of footage of sharks for analysis and the development of cutting-edge detection algorithm software.

Decoy shark

A decoy shark is also being used due to the sporadic and unreliable nature of shark sightings.

The City has made it clear that the automated system will not replace the spotters employed in Cape Town, but will be used to assist them with more reliable and accurate shark detection.

The research project will run for a total of 18 months after which it is anticipated an effective automated shark spotting system will have been developed for use in Cape Town and beyond.

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