For Australian swimmers and surfers, checking Twitter before taking a dip could be a lifesaver. Surf Life Saving Western Australia (@SLSWA), a volunteer-based association providing beach safety education and emergency rescue services, recently implemented a system that posts live tweets from more than 320 resident sharks. The updates – which include the shark’s species and approximate location – allow beachgoers to steer clear of areas with a high frequency of activity.
Scientists in Perth tagged the various sharks – which include great whites, tiger sharks, and bull sharks – with small GPS transmitters in order to track their movements along the coast. Whenever one of them swims within a kilometer of the beach, an alert is transmitted to a computer that generates a tweet in real time.
SLSWA, which is sponsored by the Department of Fisheries Western Australia, said that there are more than 160 different shark species inhabiting the 12,000 kilometers of regional coastline. Despite the large number, only the three species mentioned above pose “a significant risk to human safety.”
The GPS tags will also give scientists a wealth of information regarding the sharks’ habits. The internal batteries can last for up to 10 years – but questions remain over whether some of the larger sharks will last that long.