A stretch of water off Corona del Mar State Beach will be used to test sonar buoys that could help quickly alert lifeguards to sharks lurking near the coast, officials announced Friday morning.
In a news conference at Inspiration Point, Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon, U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and others discussed installing six of the special buoys by Memorial Day in a roughly 1,000-yard stretch of water between the offshore rocks near Poppy and Ocean avenues and the jetty at the mouth of Newport Harbor.
The devices, designed by Australia-based Shark Mitigation Systems, are called Clever Buoys. Ian Cairns, a representative of SMS, said the buoys also use sonar transducers, which will be on the ocean floor. A transducer is an electronic device that converts energy from one form to another.
Together, the buoys and transducers can find nearby marine animals and, based on the swimming patterns, detect whether an animal is a shark or dolphin.
Cairns said the buoys will notify lifeguards seconds after a sighting, giving them ample time to investigate.
Rob Williams, Newport Beach’s chief lifeguard, said his teams can use boats or drones to respond to the alerts and, depending on the size or behavior of a shark, quickly issue warnings or beach closures.
“We’re very excited about it as a city and a lifeguard division,” Williams said.
Final funding for the buoys is still being secured, as are various permits. Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, said he will be looking for federal funding to help. He said city, county, state or private money also could go into the effort.
Rohrabacher added that the buoy alerts to lifeguards could one day also be available to the public on a phone app.
Rohrabacher called sharks off the Southern California coast an “expanding threat” that he’s experienced while surfing. He joked that he has both local experience with the predators and “the sharks back in Washington.”
Officials noted that Corona del Mar State Beach, known as Big Corona, was the spot where swimmer Maria Korcsmaros was bitten last year by a shark, possibly a great white, about 150 yards offshore. She survived the attack.
Later that year, Newport Beach became the first city in Orange County to have a dedicated shark page on its website. The city also installed acoustic receivers at the Newport Pier, Balboa Pier and off Corona del Mar to gather information for the site.
Friday’s news conference was briefly disrupted by a passerby walking her dog. She accused Rohrabacher, who was being filmed by television news crews, of “working for the Russian government.”