Surf Life Saving WA’s (SLSWA) state government funded Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters will return to the skies this Saturday, 5 September as SLSWA predict an increase in beachgoers due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“When COVID-19 restrictions were first introduced in March, we saw people flock to our beaches as a way to maintain their physical and mental health,” said SLSWA President Mr Craig Smith-Gander.
With hard border closures remaining in place for the start of summer, meaning more West Australians holidaying at home and recreating on our coast, SLSWA believe the heli service will be more important than ever.
“While our volunteer surf lifesavers are committed to keeping beachgoers safe from the ground, the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters play a critical role in maintaining coastal safety from the air, especially in the area of shark mitigation,” said Mr Smith-Gander.
“The heli service is essential in providing patrol coverage to many popular beaches where we are not able to have on-beach patrols in place, including many locations in our south west.”
Compared to other shark hazard mitigation initiatives, the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopters are most consistently able to identify and respond to shark hazards, with SLSWA estimating that every season more than 4,500 beach users receive a direct warning from the helicopter services in response to shark detections.
“Time and time again the helicopters have proven to be at the apex of surveillance and response services in shark mitigation,” said Mr Smith-Gander.
“Our helicopters are fully integrated into our on-beach lifesaving services and are the only initiative that can detect, confirm, and respond to the presence of a shark.
“They remain the only initiative that can assist in real time to directly warn people of the imminent threat from sharks”.
“We thank the State Government for their support of our Westpac Lifesaver Rescuer Helicopter services and for their continued confidence in us to provide these critical services to the West Australian community,” said Mr Smith-Gander.