Hundreds of sharks are taking to Twitter to warn swimmers of their presence near beaches in the state of Western Australia. The WA government has outfitted 338 sharks, including great whites, with acoustic tags that send an electronic signal to shore-based receivers when the animals come within half a mile of the beach.
When this happens, the shark’s location is tweeted out by the Surf Life Saving Western Australia (SLSQA) Twitter account. The messages also include the sharks’ species and size, notes Popular Science. The effort is an attempt to combat shark attacks in Australia, which claimed the lives of six people in the past two years, most recently in November. Since 2011, Australia has seen more fatal shark attacks than any other country.
Chris Peck, operations manager of SLSWA, explained that the new tagging and tweeting system warns beachgoers far quicker than traditional warnings. NPR reports that he explained, “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.”
Fisheries advise: tagged Tiger shark detected at 1.5km off Scarborough receiver at 06:35:00 AM on 3-Jan-2014
— Surf Life Saving WA (@SLSWA) January 2, 2014
The tags were placed on great whites, whaler sharks, and tiger sharks and will also be monitored by scientists studying the sharks. While the project is widely seen as a good idea, Alison Kock, research manager of the Shark Spotters program in South Africa, explained that people should know not all sharks are tagged.
Kock and Kim Holland, a marine biologist who leads shark research at the University of Hawaii, agreed that the tweets aren’t enough to protect swimmers. Rather, Holland suggested they could “provide a false sense of security, adding that people could think “if there is no tweet, then there is no danger.”
[Image: Pranav Bhatt]