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Shark Social Media

Jaws is often cited as the first horror film to truly terrify the world. While certainly not as shocking or frightening as The Exorcist or The Shining, Spielberg’s film gripped the audience’s psyche with its plausibility. There’s an eerily disconcerting feeling that accompanies stepping into the ocean – an alien world where humans are not the apex predator and there’s an array of strange wildlife lurking in the depths.

Western Australia has long been a bastion of shark activity – specifically of the great white variety – and their presence near beaches and coastlines has presented a problem for government officials who wish to respect wildlife but also ensure public safety. They may have found a solution to that issue which satisfies both sides of the coin with social media.

Faced with the very real possibility that they would have to begin baiting and killing sharks that come too close to shore – and wanting to avoid that possibility – biologists in Western Australia have devised a 21st Century solution that protects both the public and the shark population. 338 sharks in the area have been tagged with acoustic transmitters that automatically issue warnings to Surf Life Saving Western Australia’s Twitter feed when a shark comes within a half-mile of the shoreline. The updates also provide information such as the shark’s breed and weight.

This is another example of the many practical applications of social media, and the life-saving benefits it can provide as a result of its real-time nature. By utilizing the possibilities available with online-technology, the Western Australia brain trust provided a solution that preserves the lives of beach-goers and native wildlife, and avoided the scuba tank-rifle-exploding shark scenario of Jaws. It’s yet another illustration of the ever-expanding list of ways that social media is being used to solve real-world problems, and a promising standard set for communities facing similar issues.    

– Carter Breazeale


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