The tweeting Great White sharks

By Daragh Cassidy

great-white-shark-smile

Authorities in Western Australia have found a novel way to warn people about the dangers of swimming in the country’s shark-infested waters. They’ve created a Twitter account for sharks which automatically posts tweets whenever they come into close contact with beaches!

Scientists have attached small transmitters to hundreds of sharks in the region, including Great Whites, to monitor their movements near public beaches. Whenever the sharks swim within about a one kilometre distance of a beach, the transmitter triggers an automatic alert which is picked up by a computer. The computer then sends out a tweet from the Surf Life Saving Western Australia’s Twitter account (@SLSWA) to warn surfers and beach goers about the potential dangers.

Screenshot 2014-01-14 12.11.14The tweet even gives the size and breed of the shark, and its approximate location. Each transmitter can last up to a decade so they also provide a huge amount of invaluable scientific information about the behaviour and migration patterns of sharks.

Sharks are common around most of Australia’s shores and the country’s love of surfing and the outdoors, combined with its great weather, means people spend a lot of time in the water and more and more surfers and swimmers are coming into ever closer contact with the fish. The unfortunate result is that shark attacks on people are on the increase around Australia and Western Australia is now the world’s deadliest place for shark attacks. In November a surfer, Chris Boyd, was fatally attacked by a shark and became the sixth person to be killed by a shark in the region in just two years.

Recently there has been huge debate in Australia about how to tackle the problem of shark attacks. Some Australians have called for the widespread culling of sharks to be reintroduced in order to control their numbers; a practice outlawed decades ago in order to protect the once endangered species. However environmentalists and animal rights campaigners have vigorously opposed any moves to reintroduce the legal killing of the fish, calling the idea senseless and unwarranted. But with shark attacks on the rise, something needs to be done.

Authorities in Australia have long patrolled beaches for sharks using helicopters and boats but there was often a delay in relaying the information to beach goers. The recent spate of attacks has prompted local government to try think of new, and more efficient ways, of warning people about potential dangers and preventing incidents. Using Twitter, which warns people of the dangers almost instantly, and leaves the sharks alone, seems like the perfect way to protect the lives of beach goers…and save the sharks too!

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