A new shark monitoring service lets beach goers in Western Australia, the area in the world with the greatest amount of yearly great white shark attacks, know in real time when sharks are close to the shoreline so they can take caution when entering the water. How does this happen? The sharks tweet their presence of course!
Scientists have tagged about 320 sharks including great whites with acoustic transmitters whose signals are picked up by satellite-connected buoys close to the beach. When tagged sharks gets within a kilometer of the beach, information including the size and breed of the shark as well as its distance from the shore are all read and then automatically tweeted by the Surf Life Saving Western Australia (SLSWA) Twitter account.
Fisheries advise report of 2.5-3m white shark sighted 10m offshore, Castle Rock Dunsborough, 1510hrs. Reported 1520 hrs— Surf Life Saving WA (@SLSWA) January 1, 2014
Previously shark monitoring has been accomplished through helicopter and boat patrols as well as eye witness reports, but that information traveled slowly.
"You might not have got some of that information until the following day in which case the hazard has long gone and the information might not be relevant," Chris Peck from SLSWA told Sky News. "Now it's instant information and really people don't have an excuse to say we're not getting the information, it's about whether you are searching for it and finding it."
All of this data is serving a larger purpose than just warning wary swimmers. The battery life of the acoustic tags is 10 years, so a wealth of information about the behavior of these sharks will be collected and analyzed, letting scientists learn a lot about the sharks' movements throughout the year.
This will help understand the species better and hopefully help the conservation of this animal. This is especially important in an area where the government is now allowing professional fishermen to kill sharks larger than three meters that enter certain zones used by surfers and beach goers. Ideally these tweets will give locals enough peace of mind that killing the sharks is no longer an option.