Australian sharks equipped with chip that sends warning tweets

 Surf Life Saving Western Australia
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Credit: Surf Life Saving Western Australia

The relationship had soured between the human and shark populations of Western Australia. The state is the worst in the world for deadly shark attacks, and the authorities were taking revenge by killing thousands of the monster fish and outraging conservationists.

At last, a sensible solution has been reached through chipping sharks so that they tweet warnings to the coastguard when they get too close to bathers, and Maclain Bruce of Surf Life Saving Western Australia is pleased.

Metro: How does this work?

Bruce: In recent years we have tagged more than 330 sharks of the coast with acoustic transmitters, including 140 Great Whites. There are acoustic receivers placed along the coast to monitor shark movements, which have satellite link capability. If a tagged shark swims within several hundred meters of those transmitters an automatic message is sent to the Department of Fisheries and that message is immediately relayed to the communications center and automatically tweeted out. The whole process takes about two minutes. The message is also sent to beach safety teams.

Is that quick enough to stop people being eaten?

The practical benefit is to disseminate important information quickly and alert the general public and media of incidents, shark sightings, and safety messages. It would be impossible to determine that a tweet about a shark definitively saved a life, but the information is a preventative action that can reduce or eliminate the chance of injury or death.

How about you make tagged sharks play the Jaws theme, or provide more complex information about themselves (e.g. I haven’t eaten in weeks)?

I’m not aware of plans but it’s an issue for the developers.

Will this be good PR for the sharks as people get to know them?

We can’t be sure at this time.


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