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Australia wants to track sharks in real-time after recent attacks

Experts gather at shark summit in Sydney to discuss new technologies

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Shark experts from around the world have gathered in Australia to discuss new technologies that could help prevent attacks on swimmers. As The Sydney Morning Herald reports, the so-called shark summit opened in Sydney today, following a spate of recent attacks along Australia's coast. There have been 13 shark attacks so far this year in the state of New South Wales (NSW), compared with three for all of 2014.

Among the technologies under consideration are an electronic repellent system, which uses a magnetic field to keep sharks away from shore, and the "Clever Buoy," which uses sonar to identify sharks and alerts lifeguards via text message. The 70 scientists at the summit will also discuss the possibility of tracking shark movements in real time using cellular data networks and smartphone applications. Authorities have tagged many sharks but still lack the ability to follow them in real time.

"We are leaving no stone unturned."

"Making our beaches safer is a top priority for the NSW government," Niall Blair, NSW minister for primary industries, tells The Sydney Morning Herald. "That's why we are leaving no stone unturned to make sure we look at new and innovative ways to protect our beaches."

Officials say they will trial some of the technologies this summer, in an effort to ease public fears. The Clever Buoy, developed by Australian company Shark Attack Mitigation Systems, has already been trialled in Western Australia and the Sydney Aquarium, where researchers are working to teach it how to differentiate sharks from dolphins. Experts are also considering a flexible plastic wall that would keep sharks away from coastlines, without affecting other marine life.

NSW Premier Mike Baird has previously called for more shark nets to be installed along the coast, though he favors alternative methods. This week's summit follows a recent study from the University of Sydney, which found that 80 percent of NSW residents opposed killing sharks to prevent attacks.