As a testament to how much social media has transformed our daily lives, government-funded researchers in Australia recently outfitted more than 300 sharks along the country's western shorelines with monitoring devices that tweet the tagged sharks’ locations when they come within a half mile of the beach. Yes, sharks just joined Twitter.
Here's how it works. Under the "Surf Life Saving Western Australia" Twitter account, followers will receive an alert via tweet that one of the tagged sharks has come near the shore. Occasionally, the tweets will list the size and breed of the shark as well. In addition to shark locations, the account also lists hazardous beach and ocean conditions and currently boasts more than 28,000 followers.
In practice, this live reporting allows surfers and beachgoers an opportunity for instant updates on shark locations. "The tagging system alerts beachgoers far quicker than traditional warnings,” Chris Peck, operations manager of Surf Life Saving Western Australia told Sky News. “Now it’s instant information. 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.”
Alerting surfers and beachgoers of the location of the tagged sharks isn't the only benefit of the program. Additionally, scientists will be using the information gathered to better understand the movement patterns of the creatures in WA. “These detections and WA's extensive receiver network are contributing to important research to help the Government to better understand the movements of white sharks through WA waters, as well as playing a major public safety role," said Dr. Rory McAuley of the Department of Fisheries.
Western Australia has garnered a deadly reputation when it comes to shark attacks, with more than six fatal attacks occurring in the last two years. The string of attacks has also lead to the government enacting a controversial culling program, which gives certain fishermen the right to kill sharks larger than 9-feet long if found in designated areas.
While being able to stay up to date on the shark's locations via Twitter may be a novel idea, it's wise to remember that only 388 sharks in the area have been tagged.