Shark tag sends SMS to alert swimmers
In a case of where cutting edge telecommunications and need intersect, Australian scientists have tagged 70 sharks with a device that sends an SMS message to authorities. It sends an alert when the dangerous creatures approach a beach and potentially create a threat to humans. It may finally provide a more important application for twitter than the more banal status updates that seem to clog the medium at present. One journalist satire that a message from a predator saying “Hi, gr8 white here – strvng. Cn we mt 4 lunch? C U l8er” might just cut through the message clutter
In a world first, the West Australian Department of Fisheries is installing 20 satellite receivers along the Perth coastline which will send a signal whenever a tagged shark comes within 500 metres. A couple of minutes later, an email or SMS will be sent to government departments, scientists, wildlife officials and lifeguards.
The technology is not new, but has never been used for “real-time” tracking of sharks, according to the department’s senior research scientist, Rory McAuley. He said yesterday that a two-year study would analyse the movements and migration patterns of great whites – or white pointers, as they are also known – along the coast.
More than 70 sharks have already been tagged, with researchers shooting or stabbing the devices into the creature’s; flanks when they pause to feed on whale carcasses. The acoustic receivers, which are being installed on the seabed near popular beaches, will all be in place by February.
The news may reassure Perth residents, for whom sharks are an ever-present threat. Nine years ago, a man was killed by a white pointer in waist-deep water off Cottesloe Beach, one of the city’s favourite coastal haunts. Since then, there have been a dozen shark attacks in Western Australia, two of them fatal. Earlier this year, an annual open-water race off Cottesloe was cancelled after a series of shark sightings in the area.