Scientists in Western Australia (WA) have equipped at least 320 sharks with transmitters that update a Twitter feed when the shark nears shore, meaning that technology is one step closer to finally defeating sharks.
Sky News reports that when a shark comes roughly within one kilometer (.6 mile) to shore, the transmitter triggers an alert picked up by a computer which transforms the message into a tweet including the size, breed and approximate location of the shark. The tweets are sent out by Surf Life Saving WA's feed, and look something like this:
Fisheries advise: tagged Bronze whaler shark detected at Bickley Point (Rottnest) receiver at 07:17:00 AM on 26-Dec-2013— Surf Life Saving WA (@SLSWA) December 25, 2013
Six people have been killed by sharks in Western Australia in the past two years, making it the deadliest region for shark attacks. The spike in fatalities has prompted the Australian government to test out new ways to protect surfers. A representative from SLSWA told Sky News that the Twitter updates could save lives:
You might not have got some of that information until the following day in which case the hazard has long gone and the information might not be relevant... 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.
The Twitter solution is a friendlier way to protect swimmers from sharks than the Australian government's other option, which at this point involves killing large sharks in close proximity to humans. Sky News reports:
Ministers have just agreed to a controversial scheme allowing professional fishermen to kill sharks larger than three meters found in certain zones which are used by surfers and beach goers... State Premier Colin Barnett recently told reporters: "The safety of human life, the safety of beach goers using our marine environment must come first." It is a move that has angered environmentalists.
The shark-culling project is, naturally, upsetting to environmentalists. One representative from Western Australians for Shark Conservation (WASC) called the decision "a simple knee-jerk reaction, based on zero science." The government is also placing bait one kilometer away from shore to attract, and capture, sharks during the summer.