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Lurking sharks to tweet near California beaches?

What if sharks themselves could warn you where they're hanging out through a tweet?
January 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
What if sharks themselves could warn you where they are through a tweet?

Researchers have tagged sharks in Western Australia with transmitters. When the shark swims within a half-mile of shore, an acoustic receiver picks up the sharks signal.

"We can connect directly to a computer and to the Internet, and basically we can have it send out email alerts or tweets when it detects," said Chris Lowe, a professor of marine biology at Cal State Long Beach and director of the school's shark laboratory.

The Twitter alert, live and automatic, lets beachgoers know the size, breed and location of the shark.

"As a surfer you really don't want to think about sharks, but it's definitely in the back of your mind sometimes," said Newport Beach resident Miles Carpenter. "I don't use Twitter, but if I did, yeah, I'd hashtag that."

So far, shark-alert tweets aren't being used in Southern California, but the technology is available. Some experts are cautious about it being used as an early-warning system.

"The biggest concern is that gives people a false sense of security," said Lowe.

In order for the sharks to be detected, they have to have a transmitter. At this point only about 320 sharks are fitted with the device in Western Australia.

"You're not going to tag every shark in the water," said Australian Cassandra Murray. "I'm not for it. I think technology is a bit crazy at the moment."

Experts also say that with big waves or heavy rain, the receiver can't hear the transmitter, so a shark could go unnoticed.

When could marine life start tweeting here? Lowe says possibly by the spring, but not as a warning system -- instead as a way to educate people about all sea life visiting the area.


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