The fact that Twitter, the social networking and microblogging site which enables users to send 'tweets' or 140 character messages to their followers is popular, is no secret. However so far the service was being used only by humans. Now it appears that some sharks that frequent the coastal regions of Western Australia have also joined the fray.
But before your imagination runs wild, these fish are not swimming around with mobile phones and using their fins to type messages. Rather, over 330 of them have been tagged with electronic devices that remotely send out a tweet through Surf Life Saving Western Australia's Twitter account, if they get to within a kilometer of a local beach.
Besides warning them about the presence of the shark, the tweet also provides details on its size and location. it is hoped that this instant information will give swimmers and surfers enough time to steer away and avoid a confrontation.
Though this a great first step to helping both fish and humans, the researchers caution residents from getting too complacent. That's because only a small number of sharks have been tagged and the electronic devices only send out signals when they are within a specific radius.
Besides using the sensors to help against attacks, the researchers are also hoping to gain more insight into shark behavior and movements, with the help of an extensive network of monitors that have been placed on the seabed around the coastline.
Though Western Australia is considered to be the most dangerous in the world for shark attacks, the numbers are actually quite small. In 2012, the area recorded just 14 attacks and only a total of 64 fatal ones have been recorded worldwide, since 2001. However, the perception and fear of the fish is so high that measures like this are deemed necessary, to provide residents some comfort.
In addition, conservationists are also hoping that it will help save the fish whose numbers are already greatly reduced, thanks to human activity. That's because a recently passed Australian law allows professional fishermen to kill sharks that are larger than three meters, if they appear in certain zones. As if that is not bad enough, the law also stipulates that sharks that come close to the beach in the summer can be baited to locations one kilometer offshore, and killed. Hopefully the 'tweeting' sensors that will last for a decade before requiring replacement, will help prevent unnecessary killings.
Resources: thespec.com, bbc.co.uk, npr.com