Photo of Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter flying over beaches

With a more than 300% increase in the number of people cleared from the water at WA beaches this year due to the presence of sharks, Surf Life Saving WA’s Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service continues to play a vital role in keeping West Australian beachgoers safe.

As the service completes its final patrols for the season today, Surf Life Saving WA general manager Chris Peck said it was clear that the service continued to demonstrate its importance to public beach safety and why it remains a crucial element of the state governments shark mitigation strategy.  

While the number of shark sightings by the service remained comparable to last year, up 12%, the number of individuals cleared from the water, as a result, increased dramatically, up more than 60% in the south-west, and more than 700% in the metropolitan region, with in excess of 5,000 individuals cleared from metropolitan beaches.

“We know that the first COVID lockdowns early last year saw a dramatic increase in beach visitation, as West Australians headed outdoors and to our coastline to recreate and for mental health.

“To an extent, we can see that this increased visitation has continued, and we believe, been a key driver in the increase in the number of people cleared from the water due to the presence of sharks,” said Mr Peck.

While a beach closure will only occur where on-beach services, such as lifesaving patrols or ranger services, can physically enact it, a large number of clearances from the water occur as a result of the helicopter sounding its siren to alert those in the water.

“In our south-west in particular, where we have a large number of popular beaches which do not have on beach patrol services, the ability for our helicopters to detect a danger, confirm, and initiate a response through a direct warning to beach users, is unique.

“The helicopter really is able to deliver a service that no other resources can,” said Mr Peck.

The North Fremantle based metro service will perform its final patrols of the season today, while the Busselton based south-west service flew its last patrol on Monday following the Anzac Day long weekend. 

Over the 2020/21 season, which runs September through April, the service performed 984 hours of patrol (as of 28 April 2021) covering more than 100,00km’s over some of WA’s most popular beaches. 

Patrols will recommence in September 2021.

The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service is proudly partnered by Westpac and supported by the WA Government.

2020/21 Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter KEY STATISTICS 

Metro Service

September 1 2020 – 30 April 2021

Based out of Rous Head, North Fremantle, the metro service flies between Mandurah in the south, Yanchep to the north, and Rottnest Island to the east. 

Stats to 28/04/2021

  • Flight Hours: 503 
  • Number of patrols: 436
  • Number of shark sighting incidents: 234
  • Number of people cleared: 5,005
  • Beach Closures: 68 

South-West Service

September 1 2020 – 26 April 2021

Based out of the Busselton Margaret River Airport, the south west service flies between Bunbury in the north and Hamelin Bay in the south.              

  • Flight Hours: 481 
  • Number of patrols: 267
  • Number of shark sighting incidents: 326
  • Number of people cleared: 1,584
  • Beach Closures: 33 

Find out more about Surf Life Saving WA’s Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Megan Jones, Marketing & Communications Officer


P: 0406 006 495

SLSWA Media Phone – media are reminded of the SLSWA Media Phone that is manned at the SurfCom radio operations base. Please call this number with media enquiries, particularly over weekends and Public Holidays: 0448 025 339