Where it all Began - Anton's Story.
Under the waves and behind the scenes, you'll find managing director Anton Covino. He started Shark Watch at the age of 17 while in year 12. Struggling with his grades at the time, he decided to embrace the dreaded research project and focus on an idea he was passionate about, in shark attack mitigation. At the time, the Western Australian government was receiving major criticism from shark advocates all around the world after they (the government) mandated a shark cull following a series of fatal shark interactions in the region. Anton was also sceptical of the government's mandating and went on to research more about it. This formed the framework for his project.
During this period, he discovered many non-lethal alternatives to shark attack mitigation. Of the different measures, Anton was most enthralled by live receiver tags. With this method, sharks are tagged, then picked up by acoustic shark monitoring receivers. From the moment a tagged shark is detected by the receiver, it instantly relays an alert to the social media feeds of official surf rescue organisations. Anton saw great merit with this incentive as social media is a widely growing platform where users can regularly check their feeds from almost anywhere at any time. The speed and accuracy of these acoustic transmissions also offers ample opportunity for beach-goers to deviate away from the risk.
Anton was sold on the idea, but research into shark attack mitigation in South Australia gave little encouragement to implement this idea locally. Traditional aerial surveillance and beach enclosure projects remain, to this day, as swimmers sole defence against shark interactions in South Australia aside from personal deterrents like the Shark Shield. There is very little publicly available information on acoustic shark tagging in South Australia, or updates on tagged shark movements, locally. Anton sought innovation and changed the way many individuals within the community interact on social media, by seeking shark activity updates before venturing into the water.
The idea was simple. Utilise the messaging tools available on social media to receive public submissions of shark sightings. These public submissions are then posted to the social media accounts known today as "Shark Watch South Australia". We undertake a process to ensure timely, accurate reporting although we lack our own resources to confirm a reports legitimacy. When a written report is made, a phone call is initiated back to the reporter. Once confirmed, we then upload the report to the Australia wide Dorsal Shark Reports app, which automatically relays the app report to our social media accounts.
We find that the most effective way the public can report a shark sighting, is by sharing a photograph or video of the shark. This provides the moderators of the accounts and the community greater transparency, as we solely rely on the quality of the photography to confirm the shark species, its size, sex and any definitive markings (in some cases) which actually inhibits the potential to track the species if encountered at sea again by another Shark Watch user.
7 years down and Anton's work is just beginning. His endeavours to turn Shark Watch SA into a fully profitable venture has taken him on a journey working with many influential professionals including business directors, entrepreneurs and mentors from official surf rescue organisations around the state. Anton's long term plan is to work more closely with the community on ventures bringing a greater sense of peace of mind and a healthier perception of sharks and the importance for their conservation. There is also a burning desire to be the states number one platform for shark sighting management working alongside key state surf rescue operations who have the resources that we don't.
When Shark Watch first started appearing on social media feeds, it attracted the attention of many different coastal enthusiasts. From boaters, to drone film makers, to your average bystanders on the beach, Anton has been able to cultivate many different working relationships with these individuals in the development of his organisation. Because of this diversity, we have been able to document shark behaviour from many different vantage points making for some incredible viewing and paving the way for a new and exciting means of local shark reporting!
Ray Giumelli photographed this curious White Shark from his boat at Coffin Bay.
Anton (pictured on the left) assisting with shark surveillance trials at Grange Beach.
Steve Andresen captured this shark, at Sheringa Bay, using his UAV.