New app asks beachgoers to help keep track of sharks
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Heading to the beach this summer? Don’t forget the essentials before you head out the door – your bathing suit, towel, sunscreen, sunglasses and – an app?

That’s what the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and New England Aquarium are hoping for as they advance an initiative that’s educating the public about sharks and encouraging them to report sightings off Cape Cod in Massachusetts through an app called Sharktivity.

Through the agreement, the AWSC, which is based in Chatham, Massachusetts, will contract Boston’s New England Aquarium to employ a local coordinator that will be responsible for verifying shark sighting reports made by the public through the app.

They will also document submitted accounts of the interactions between sharks and seals or other predatory behavior.

The coordinator, Massachusetts-based shark expert John Chisholm, will also submit photos of white sharks that the public has submitted for identification. Those will also be included in the conservancy’s White Shark Logbook Catalog.

“The New England Aquarium is one of the nation’s premier institutions dedicated to marine life conservation, education and research, and our collaborative effort will enhance rapid and accurate confirmation of white shark sightings reported through Sharktivity,” said Cynthia Wigren, CEO and co-founder of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. “Citizen scientists play a crucial role in the Conservancy’s mission to educate the community and improve public safety, and we rely upon and value their sighting data reported through the Sharktivity app.”

A great white shark swims past a boat on a shark watching boat off the Massachusetts' coast of Cape Cod on Aug. 17, 2021.
The app will also document submitted accounts of the interactions between sharks and seals or other predatory behavior.
AP/Charles Krupa

Chisholm will take his task one step further by working with members of the public to promote the awareness of non-white shark species, including skates and rays, which live in the waters off of the New England coast and are often misidentified as sharks.

“The conservancy has really spearheaded the effort to keep the community as informed and safe as possible regarding white sharks, and the New England Aquarium is excited to join and amplify this effort,” said Dr. Nick Whitney, Senior Scientist at the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life. “Our adjunct scientist, John Chisholm, has been tracking public shark sightings for many years and brings a wealth of expertise to help us coordinate sightings through the conservancy’s Sharktivity app.”

So, what does the Sharktivity app do exactly?

In this May 22, 2019 file photo, a couple stands next to a shark warning sign while looking at the ocean at Lecount Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, Mass.
The app creators hope it will help minimize encounters with the sharks and to promote safety.
AP/Charles Krupa

The conservancy says it provides important information and push notifications alerting people who are taking the time to enjoy the beach of white shark sightings in the area.

It can also provide information about shark detection from those that have been tagged by the conservancy and their movements in the waters off the coast. Data from sharks that have been tagged is also made available to the public from within the app.

The sightings are then added by researchers, safety officials and users of the app that have uploaded photos for confirmation that a shark is nearby.

The conservancy says that allowing users to upload information and photos will help minimize encounters with the sharks and to promote safety.

For more information about the Atlantic White Shark Conversancy and the Sharktivity app, click here.

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