Stinger cameras at Cairns beaches to help predict bloom severity
Training Indigenous Rangers to collect Irukandji jellyfishes and to measure water quality

Daniel Bateman, The Cairns Post

October 23, 2016 5:00am

James Cook University researchers have teamed up with the CSIRO to install several cameras at Palm Cove and Yorkeys Knob which will monitor jellyfish populations and sea conditions.

Two of the cameras, to be installed at a depth of 8m underneath the Palm Cove jetty, will provide real-time data on Irukandji jellyfish.

The cameras will emit blue lighting to attract the thumb-sized venomous animals, which are difficult to track with the naked eye.

They will join two “stinger cams” that have been installed above the water’s surface at the jetty and at the Yorkeys Knob marina.

All of the devices, developed in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, use image recognition technology and will help alert lifeguards to the presence of marine stingers.

The images are broadcast over the 4G network to a remote file server and can be accessed anywhere at anytime.

JCU marine researcher Professor Mike Kingsford said data gathered from the cameras, which worked on the same principle as CCTV, would provide surf lifesavers with information to decide when to close beaches if there were too many jellyfish present.

“We will be able to provide real-time information to Surf Life Saving Queensland to allow them to decide when is it a good or a bad time to pull out the nets and when the high-risk time of the year is,” he said.

The cameras will also allow researchers to obtain information on sea temperature and salinity, factors which may influence influxes in jellyfish populations. Irukandji and box jellyfish have been scientifically proven to be attracted to blue lights.

Prof Kingsford said it was not a danger luring the venomous creatures to the jetty area.

“The cameras are located in about 8m of water and they’re way out there (away from the beach),” he said.

“No one swims there and there are incidental lights here (at Palm Cove) anyway.”

The project is federally funded and has assistance from the Cairns-based Reef and Rainforest Centre and local indigenous rangers.

The Far North’s stinger season is expected to begin at the end of this month. Prof Kingsford said it was too early to tell whether it would be severe.

“It will be different to this year because there’s no El Nino,” he said.

Almost 30 people across FNQ were stung by potentially deadly jellyfish in the past 12 months, the most in at least a decade, according to SLSQ statistics.

The influx has been attributed to northerly winds, which forced the regular closure of most Cairns beaches throughout last summer.

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