Q. What sources does Shark Watch use to obtain shark sighting information?
A: As we are very much a community driven service and our following is quite large here locally in South Australia (currently at more than 80,000 users) a sizeable portion of annual reports is submitted from the public. During Winter when shark patrols aren't available the public along with the Abalone Divers Association is generally the only sources of information available as oppose to the summer months when patrolling aircraft are assigned to monitor Adelaide's metropolitan coastline for sightings. This is why we always highlight the importance of having such a vast community of Shark Watch users as it allows us to cover all sections of coastline 365 days a year.
Q. How do we verify that a shark sighting is legitimate
A: There is only so much we can do to confirm that a report is legitimate. Shark Watch will take every report seriously and put every scenario into consideration so that those reporting the shark sighting are being fairly treated. Our process to confirm sightings requests for photo and video evidence of the shark, this is the only solid evidence we can use however as a lot of surfers and swimmers encounter sharks while they're in the water and aren't able to access their phone to take photos and videos we will instead call the person directly to have a chat about the encounter and see if their story adds up.
Q. Are there more sharks around in South Australia?
A: This is a question constantly being asked by our followers and is a controversial and somewhat intriguing topic that I simply cannot answer myself and researchers probably still cannot find an answer too either as any solid evidence confirming the exact numbers over the past decade is nothing more than an estimation. What should be noted however is the rapid decline in shark numbers worldwide due to their over fishing and it is estimated that anywhere between 70 million to 100 million sharks are killed each year from this globally devastating activity. Perhaps in South Australia the shark species we should be turning our attention to in terms of its population trend over the past decade is the White Shark.
South Australia has one of the highest populations of White Sharks in the world being famously referenced as the "shark highway" with the Neptune Islands a favourable place for them with its abundance of food source with Australia's largest fur seal colony. Many pro fishermen and divers who follow Shark Watch and have been on the water for a lifetime of years however, believe that the numbers of White Sharks have and are increasing. What I can confirm however is that due to the arrival of Shark Watch and its rapidly growing community we have been able to report on shark sightings that in times prior to social media would have previously gone ignored making it appear that their numbers may be rising when it could well and truly be just the reports that are increasing.
Q. Is the Shark Watch campaign capable of preventing shark attacks?
A: Absolutely, depending on how our users react to our alerts. We provide real time shark sightings to give beach goers within the area a heads up to leave the water and warn other family and friends to avoid the area completely. The whole point of having the details we provide in our reports is to give the viewer an idea of what they might be dealing with providing they head down to the beach where the sharks been spotted so they can then use it as an advantage to deviate around the danger. The more people who follow the Alert-Act-Respect motto I preach, the more impact Shark Watch has I cannot stress this enough!
Aside from the logical view, there is no doubt that with the amplification this campaign has already generated for local shark sightings, that many unwanted encounters and attacks have already been prevented. One particular occasion highlighted our full potential when one of our followers saw her sisters kayak get mauled by a four metre White Shark after we delayed to release a report... had she known about the sighting the result could have been far different.
Q. Why are there more shark sightings throughout spring and summer?
A: There are a number or combining factors occurring during this time of the year which significantly increase the number of reports we receive compared to the relatively lower number of sightings made throughout autumn and winter. Firstly, we need to take into account the amount of eyes on the water during certain periods of the year where masses of people turn to our beaches to escape the heat and enjoy their holiday breaks during these warmer months and as Shark Watch has grown in its popularity to more than 80,000 users locally willing to report their shark sightings these periods of warmer weather and more available time to use the water will no doubt in turn see more reports.
Having government funded aerial shark patrols which have a better angle to observe the water will also contribute to the risen numbers during this period as they will frequently spot sharks. In mid November and into December this is the time we traditionally see an influx of shark sightings along Adelaide's metropolitan coastline which continues throughout January however this is also a time for great fishing amongst these waters and this is because several species of fish migrate north into St Vincent Gulf waters including spawning schools of Snapper which are perfect food for White Shark's. It is also believed that during the later times of the year larger pregnant Bronze Whaler sharks use parts of the gulf as a nursery to give birth to their young, add plenty of food sources and seasonal migrations and you have a shark active summer.