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Shark-tracking app wants to help keep your beach vacation bite-free

drone kitesurfer great white shark
Elias Levy / Creative Commons
While Jaws demonstrated in spectacular fashion just how bad things can get during an unwanted shark encounter, such gruesome calamities are thankfully extremely rare.

However, aware that many beachgoers would still prefer to have advance warning of a great white loitering in nearby water rather than discover the fact via a surprise tug on the leg, the Massachusetts-based Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has released an app to keep swimmers informed of known shark activity along the shoreline of New England and beyond.

Called Sharktivity, the free iPhone app (sorry, Android users, you’ll just have to continue to hedge your bets) sends out real-time notifications of shark sightings in coastal waters, enabling you to make an informed decision about whether to enter the sea for a relaxing paddle or wait a while until you’re satisfied it’s safe.

Besides accepting sight reports from shark experts and beach patrols, the app also lets regular users submit details of their own sightings, which can be immediately relayed to others bathers. Even better, the app lets you track the location of tagged sharks, reducing the chance of an unpleasant surprise during a leisurely summer dip.

“Most people have phones with them at the beach, and the reasoning is getting information to them as soon as possible,” Cynthia Wigren, the conservancy group’s president, told CNN. She added that besides bathers, the app could also prove useful for others in the water such as boaters and fishermen.

Sharktivity has the noble aim of helping “people and white sharks co-exist peacefully,” though in a cautionary note on the group’s website, it reminds users that “the only way to completely rule out a close encounter with a shark is to stay on shore.”

But don’t be too alarmed – data shows that throughout the entire U.S. in 2015 only one fatal shark attack took place, in Hawaii.

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