Social sharks now surf the web

Twitter is no longer for the birds.


Ocean predators have become the latest stars of social networking, with beachgoers in Western Australia now able to get shark alerts in close to real time.

Surf Life Saving WA members have begun tweeting the locations of more than 300 tagged white sharks in a bid to warn swimmers when to stay out of the water. 

A photo of the 5m shark off Brighton Beach this morning. This photo is taken from the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter.

— Surf Life Saving WA (@SLSWA) December 29, 2013

The move is an extension of the WA government’s shark monitoring network, where sharks are tagged and tracked using satellites.

Shark Monitoring Network Project Manager Mark Kleeman said in a press release that the network now had 19 satellite-linked monitors off Perth’s coast, with several others in regional areas. More are expected to follow.

“The new monitors at these popular beaches will allow beach users to know if a tagged shark is near the beach with near real-time alerts,” said Mr Kleeman.

However, he warned, the shark monitoring system will only detect sharks within a specific radius, so members of the public are still encouraged to report shark sightings where possible.

“We ask people who sight sharks in WA to call the Water Police on 9442 8600, it is important sightings of large sharks are reported in a timely and accurate manner.”

A photo of the 3-4m shark sighted earlier @ Leighton Beach, courtesy of Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter.

— Surf Life Saving WA (@SLSWA) December 28, 2013

The move comes amid more controversial measures to stop shark attacks, including a plan to bait and kill sharks near popular Perth beaches.

More than 4,000 people in Western Australia turned out in January to protest the move. Critics claim the plan will not help prevent shark attacks and will put marine life at risk.

WA Premier Colin Barnett defended the strategy, saying the new measures are necessary after seven fatal shark attacks in the state in the past three years.

The most recent attack saw a 35-year-old surfer killed by a shark near Gracetown, south of Perth, in November 2013.