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Firebird 300 supports Life Saving Victoria aerial shark patrols

7 January 2017

Victoria’s intelligence gathering helicopter will fly along the surf coast today to assist Life Saving Victoria crews conduct shark sighting patrols.

Usually used in fires, storms and floods, the Firebird 300 has expanded its capability to include shark spotting, undertaking several intelligence gathering flights in the past week.

Two Westpac Life Saving Victoria helicopters will be supported by Firebird 300 this morning in preparation for a number of water sport events happening across the weekend. Firebird 300 will then return to its usual duties so it’s ready for any potential fire activity in the afternoon.

Although no sharks were spotted while Firebird 300 was flying last weekend, the aerial patrol enabled crews to test the camera equipment on board and configure it to suit water conditions rather than the normal land environment.

Life Saving Victoria CEO Nigel Taylor said it was an encouraging example of combining agency resources to provide additional preventative operations to protect Victorians.

“We are trying to cover 800km of coastline and given the high number of shark sightings, having access to additional resources helped us to be extra vigilant,’’ he said.

“It was also a really useful exercise in terms of integration of Life Saving Victoria crew on the Firebird 300 that allowed us to test its technology and equipment for future use.

“As an example we found that the cameras work better with low visibility whereas the eyes of our observers work better in a high visibility environment.

“No sharks were sighted but it was really useful in terms of learning and gaining experience for when we work together again.”

There has been an increase in shark sightings in the past two weeks, after more than 30 sharks were seen of the Victorian coastline on Boxing Day.

“We are now comparing weather and prevailing coastal conditions in an attempt to identify any emerging patterns associated with shark sightings that may provide guidance for future operations,” Mr Taylor said.

Life Saving Victoria helicopters will continue to patrol beaches for sharks across the summer period, while beach-goers are being asked to stay focused and exercise caution when swimming.

For information on shark sightings and safety tips visit:

The VicEmergency website and VicEmergency app provide the latest information and alerts for shark sightings at patrolled beaches as well as beach closures.

Download the VicEmergency app today from the App Store and Google Play.