Surf Life Saving WA rescue chopper patrols back after clearing 1640 from South West shark risk last season

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Ailish DelaneySouth Western Times
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Surf Life Saving WA Westpac Lifesaver helicopter has commenced its weekend patrols for this season.
Camera IconSurf Life Saving WA Westpac Lifesaver helicopter has commenced its weekend patrols for this season. Credit: Unknown/Surf Life Saving WA

The South West’s eye in the sky for shark sightings returned to the air at the weekend as Surf Life Saving WA flew its first helicopter patrol of the season.

Weekend patrols for the South West and Perth began Saturday, with Fisheries Minister Don Punch announcing $12 million funding in the State Budget for the lifesaving services including beach and aerial patrols through to 2024-25.

SLSWA reported 326 shark sightings across South West beaches from its chopper last season, prompting 1640 people in the region to swim in to safety — a 60 per cent increase from the same period last year.

The ability for our helicopters to detect danger and initiate a response through a direct warning to beach users is unique.

SLSWA president Craig Smith-Gander said with volunteer beach patrols not commencing until October at many locations, the helicopters would be especially important as people returned to the beach.

“In our South West in particular, where we have many popular beaches without on-beach patrol services, the ability for our helicopters to detect danger and initiate a response through a direct warning to beach users is unique,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the State Government to make our coastline as safe as possible for all West Australians.”

Mr Punch said with warm days on the horizon, more West Australians would be heading to the beach.

“The State Government-funded SLSWA helicopter patrol service is relied on by many beachgoers when switching on their Sea Sense, and the $12 million budget allocation to continue this service will ensure people can continue to enjoy our beautiful beaches with confidence,” he said.

The rescue chopper will cover Bunbury to Hamelin Bay on weekends until September 25, when it will fly daily for the school holiday period.

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