By Sharon Kennedy (Cross Media Reporter),
25 January, 2012

An encounter with a shark about eight years has led Jack Carlsen to developing a website that would warn people of shark sightings.

Co-Direct of Sustainable Tourism Research and Development at Curtin University, Professor Carlsen is working on an interactive site which would post warning and then sent out that information by email.

Currently, around 100 people have signed up to both send and receive information about shark movements.

“I feel that if I had had some knowledge about the presence of the shark I would have exercised more caution before going into the water.”

Do people have information, wonders Professor Carlsen, “particularly whether they’re are able to tap into local knowledge and any local sightings”.

At the moment, the site is in development, he says. The next stage is to prove the concept.

“We’re looking for surfers to sign up to sharkwatch.info. I’m pleased to say we’ve just hit 100.”

The site needs to be interactive and to get the message out in the most effective way explains Professor Carlsen. “At this stage, we’re looking at email alerts.

“Further down the track, we could be doing all sorts of things like SMS alerts and dedicated web pages and links to popular sites that surfers use such as Coastal Watch and Sea Breeze and so on”

When the site is operation, people will be able to report a shark sighting and to have that sighting confirmed by others. Professor Carlsen is also hoping to provide maps to specify locations.

“Anyone that signed up and has nominated that beach as one of their local beaches will get an email alert about the sighting.

“We also want to be able to tap into other local knowledge. Other surfers will have the opportunity to confirm that sighting and support that or dismiss it when the threat has gone.

“We know that sharks move on – two or three kilometres – within a short period of time.”

Such an initiative hasn’t been done elsewhere to Professoressor Carlsen’s knowledge. “It’s one more way of alerting surfers.”

Shark sightings are periodic, he allows. “There are certain times of the day or the year when the threat is greater. It’s really good that people like beach inspectors and aerial shark spotters are signing up as well.

“So they’ll be a great resource for us to be able to confirm the movement of sharks as they pass our beaches.”

Anyone who is interested in the concept can register online and nominate their local beach, says Professor Carlsen. The public has already had input into the design of the site and its functionality, he adds.

“There’s been an enormous interest in the concept so there’s an imperative to get it up and running as soon as we can.”

Source: abc.net.au/