Marine Watch director Glenn-Leigh Smith with fellow pilot Paul Davidson and the Seabird.
Marine Watch director Glenn-Leigh Smith with fellow pilot Paul Davidson and the Seabird. Blainey Woodham

Shark muster is best in the air

EYES in sky will keep watch over beach-goers along the Gold Coast with a new surveillance service.

Observer for Marine Watch John Nielson said sharks had been seen each day, as well as thousands of stingray pods in the first week of operation.

“I also saw a three-metre manta ray. We could see every detail through the water,” Mr Nielson said.

“We only fly 400 feet up – the length of a football field up in the air – and it is breathtaking.”

Mr Nielson, a qualified lifeguard, said although sharks had been seen offshore they were usually not a cause for concern.

“It is about sharing the territory and using preventative action to keep people safe.”

Mr Nielson said a 3.3-metre tiger shark was spotted in Rainbow Bay on New Year’s Eve but preventative action employed by Marine Watch and lifeguards ensured public calm was maintained.

“We didn’t make an unnecessary fuss as we simply didn’t want to sound alarmist,” Mr Nielson said.

“Action taken was to launch the Gold Coast City Council lifeguard on a jet-ski from Tower 1 at Snapper Rocks who discretely mustered it out to sea as we circled.”

Mr Nielson said he and pilot Glenn Leigh-Smith hoped to employ two full-time pilots and a team of lifeguard observers for the service.

“We can stay up for seven hours on a full tank of gas, while a helicopter can only stay up a couple of hours,” Mr Nielson said.

“Aerial surveillance is the way of the future and the strength of our operation is we work at a fraction of the cost of a helicopter.”

The service currently operates between 8am and 5pm every day from the Gold Coast airport’s sea air terminal.



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