TAG TALK: Senior shark scientist Dr Vic Peddemors discusses with media the impending shark tagging operation at Ballina.
TAG TALK: Senior shark scientist Dr Vic Peddemors discusses with media the impending shark tagging operation at Ballina. Marc Stapelberg

How the region's shark tracking operation will work

THE mission to tag resident great whites will be a "fishing expedition" unlike any other seen in the region.

The bait and tag operation is estimated to run for up to two weeks and involve an aerial spotting helicopter and two Department of Primary Industries vessels.

The helicopter will enable quick sighting of the sharks, while an inflatable boat will bait and hook the shark and then the main DPI vessel will conduct the tagging.

No sharks will be removed from the water during the operation.

"Sharks are best cradled in the water ... it's not good for the shark and it's hard to maintain the safety of the people involved," CSIRO tagging coordinator Barry Bruce said.

"It's about maintaining safety for the staff and releasing it in a good condition so we can get natural behaviour."

While the sharks are held in a harness in the ocean, the crew will work together to insert a satellite tag in their dorsal fin, before rolling them over to surgically insert a second, acoustic tag in their belly.

The entire capture and tagging process can be done in as little as 30 minutes.

"This is something that you don't do without a lot of preparation and it's good to have the team from NSW DPI that we've worked with for the last eight years up here with that level of experience to handle these animals," Mr Bruce said.

Unfortunately, the tags do not provide real-time data and so can't be expected to warn beachgoers of a nearby shark.

Acoustic tags require an underwater listening station to be within 300m - there are 700 along the NSW coast and the nearest is at Coffs Harbour - while the satellite tags will transmit only when the shark's dorsal fin emerges from the water.

The satellite transmitters are expected to work for between six months and two years, while the acoustic, stomach-based tags can transmit for up to eight years.

It's hoped they will give a couple of readings a day, although at times the sharks won't surface for a few weeks.


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