In Australia, sharks are on Twitter !
Recently, the state of Western Australia tagged more than 330 sharks to monitor their movements near public beaches, and to warn surfers and swimmers.
The animals are tagged with acoustic transmitters to track them. The scientists tagged three species, which are often involved in attacks : great whites, whaler sharks and tiger sharks.
When a tagged shark is about a kilometer of a beach, it triggers a computer alert, which tweets out a message on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia twitter account (@SLSWA). The tweet gives the size and breed of the shark, and its approximate location.
Western Australia is the world’s deadliest place for shark attacks. There has been six fatal attacks in the region in just two years. This system has been created to reduce the number of fatal shark attacks in this area, by sending messages to surfers and swimmers to warn them. The messages are delivered on twitter, which is far quicker than traditional warnings (on local radio for example). This system will also help the scientists to better understand the movements of sharks trough Western Australian waters.
Alison Kock, research manager of a similar program in South Africa, tells that the project is a good idea, but that people should know that not all sharks are tagged. Her program – the Shark Spotters program – does the same job, but the sharks are not tagged, they’re spotted by humans (« spotters ») placed on strategic points along the coast, with polarized sunglasses and binoculars. If a shark is seen the beach spotter sounds a siren and raises a white flag with a black shark.
In Western Australia, the government has recently introduced a new policy which allows sharks to be caught and killed. The solution offered by the SLSWA may not be perfect, but is at least a more targeted and a more humane response.
Etudiante en Master 2 Droit de l’Economie Numérique à l’Université de Strasbourg