It looks like people aren’t the only ones swimming around Twitter these days, as sharks in Western Australia have also taken a liking to the microblogging service. That’s right, sharks have gone social and will send out a tweet every time they are located within about half a mile of shore.
Of course, the sharks aren’t intentionally warning us of their approach. Government scientists have tagged 338 sharks with acoustic transmitters so their locations can be continuously monitored. It’s these transmitters that trigger the sharks’ warning tweets via the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter account, describing the shark’s approximate size, breed and whereabouts.
The new tracking system set for great white, whale and tiger sharks provides instant alerts to swimmers. Shark attacks have become a closely followed topic in Australia since the country has suffered six fatal shark attacks over the last two years, more than any country in the world. Plus, tweeting sharks’ location is a much friendlier method than the recent proposition in Western Australia to bait and slaughter sharks that swim close to shore. The new monitoring method should also provide shark researchers with useful scientific data.
Alison Kock, a research manager at Shark Spotters located in South Africa, told NPR that she believes the project is a good idea while warning that all sharks can’t be tagged. Another marine biologist, Kim Holland from Hawaii University, concurs:
It can, in fact, provide a false sense of security — that is, if there is no tweet, then there is no danger — and that simply is not a reasonable interpretation. Just because there’s a shark nearby doesn’t mean to say that there’s any danger. In Hawaii, tiger sharks are all around our coastlines all the time, and yet we have very, very few attacks.”
While the alerts could prove lifesaving, they could also lead to trouble. On the one hand, these alerts could lead to a lot of false alarms. On the other, sharks have been known to travel great distances across oceans of water, meaning it’s likely that untagged sharks could soon be swimming into Australia’s waters. So, folks, just because a few sharks are playing good samaritan on Twitter does’t mean the entire species has joined the social networking site yet! Plus, while you’re on a surf board can you really be expected to be surfing your Twitter stream or relying on others to?
So have you spotted any sharks on Twitter yet?
Featured image by Rebecca Le May/EPA/Landov