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GPS-Tagged Sharks Post Location to Twitter, Alerting Beachgoers

Dec 26, 2013 04:25 PM EST

The Twitter feed of Surf Life Saving Western Australia - a non-profit group dedicated to beachgoer safety - is being accessed regularly by GPS-tagged sharks that tweet their breed, size and location, alerting beachgoers to their presence.

The tweets are sent when one of more than 320 tagged sharks is identified by a monitoring system that sends an alert to Surf Life Saving Western Australia computers when the shark swims within about a kilometer of a beach, according to Australia's Sky News.

The tweet gives the size and type of shark, as well as its approximate location. One tweet posted Thursday alerted swimmers of a great white shark:

"Fisheries advise: White Shark 2.5 - 3m, had been sighted at Rottnest 500m offshore from Pt Clune. Sighting @ 1535 Reported @ 1610."

The speed at which the shark location data can reach people may ultimately save lives. Western Australia is the world's deadliest place for shark attacks - six people have died there from shark attacks in the past two years, Sky News reported.

There are about 160 species of sharks known to inhabit Australian waters, according to Surf Life Saving Western Australia, and three of them are considered to be a risk to human safety: the great white, the tiger shark and the bull shark.

The majority of shark fatalities in Western Australia are attributed to white sharks, the group states on its website.

The official Department of Fisheries Western Australia web page acknowledges the partnership between the government and Surf Life Saving Western Australia, linking to the Twitter account and stating that the partnership is aimed to "develop new strategies for beach goers and users of the aquatic environment on the risks associated with sharks​."

"These detections and WA's extensive receiver network are contributing to important research to help the government to better understand the movements of white sharks through WA waters, as well as playing a major public safety role," Rory McAuley, Department of Fisheries principal research scientist, told Sky News.

"The battery life of internal acoustic tags is up to 10 years so the scientific data that may be collected from this shark is unprecedented."

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