Large sharks off Western Australia are now doing their part to keep surfers and swimmers safe–by sending tweets warning of their presence.
Scientists have fitted 320 sharks, many of them great whites, with transmitters that automatically issue warnings to the Surf Life Saving Western Australia’s Twitter feed when the tagged sharks approach within a kilometer of the coast’s popular beaches.
For example, a tweet sent early Saturday in Australia reads: “Fisheries advise: tagged Bronze whaler shark detected at Garden Island (north end) receiver at 06:0700 AM on 27-Dec-2013.”
The twitter feed has more than 14,000 followers and the real-time warnings, it’s hoped, will help people make more informed decisions when choosing to venture into the ocean.
Chris Peck, from SLSWA, told Sky News that this system will reach beachgoers before alerts issued via traditional media, such as radio and newspapers.
“You might not have got some information until the following day, in which case the hazard has long gone and the information might not be relevant,” Peck said. “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.”
Six people have been killed by sharks off Western Australia in the past two years. The latest victim, Chris Boyd, 35, was fatally bitten while surfing in November.
The government has been under tremendous pressure to make the waters safer and the Tweeting program comes after a decision to allow professional hunters to kill large sharks sighted in certain areas.
Premier Colin Barnett recently told reporters: “The safety of human life, the safety of beach goers using our marine environment must come first.”
The shark-culling effort, however, has been highly criticized as a program that will only lend a perception that the waters are safer after a shark or several sharks are removed.
So far, nobody has tweeted in opposition to shark’s using Twitter to announce their arrival. To be sure, it seems like the more rational of the two plans.