Surf Life Saving WA's (SLSWA)Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service wrapped up for the season on Thursday, with shark sightings up 16 per cent over the previous year.
The North Fremantle-based metro helicopter performed its final patrols of the season yesterday, while the Busselton-based South West heli flew its final patrol on Monday following a busy weekend which saw the service instrumental in saving the life of a fisherman swept off rocks near Contos Beach in Margaret River.
Over the 2019/20 season, which runs September through April, the service performed 1,042 hours of patrol covering more than 10,000 kilometres over some of WA's most popular beaches, which this year included an extended South West flight path beyond Margaret River to Hamelin Bay.
SLSWA general manager Chris Peck said the service continued to demonstrate its importance as not only a key element in the state government's shark mitigation strategy, but in its role assisting the WA Police and other emergency service agencies in search and rescue activity.
"The services ability to detect, confirm and initiate responses, through direct warning to beach users, is unique," he said.
"The helicopter really is able to deliver a service that our other resources cannot.
The South West-based service saw a 100 per cent increase in search and rescue activity over the previous season, and a 31 per cent increase in the number of beach closures due to shark sightings.
Meanwhile the metro based service saw an 11 per cent increase in shark sightings, but no change in the number of beach closures.
The state government funded patrols will recommence in September 2020.