‘It’s about saving lives’: The app showing up the sharks
SOME might decry the use of an app that tells you 'there's a shark in the ocean' but co-creator of Dorsal Shark Reports Sarah Beardmore says it's a way of sustainably saving lives.
"It's based on keeping the public informed," she said.
"It's just peace of mind."
Ms Beardmore a former professional surfer, co-founded the project from her home in Suffolk Park along with Allan Bennetto who resides in Victoria.
"After a series of fatal shark attacks in Australia, one in Ballina and one in Tasmania, a common thread between those two was members of the public sharing they had seen the same species shark in the area within the last 24 hours," she said.
"And people had been saying 'We didn't know who to share that information with'.
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"It was a passion project, and before we knew, we hadn't spent a cent on marketing and we had 350,000 downloads and 350 thousand on social media."
Ms Beardmore said while people may scoff at the reports they see online, it was about keeping the public informed, and allow them to report sightings.
"Let's face it. The last thing you want is to go to the next beach around the corner from an attack," she said.
"For me, every time I surf, I check the app, and want to know what's going on before I choose where I want to go."
"We have a lot of diving instructors and surf instructors that use the app as well."
The system works through aggregating official government reports as well as taking reports from the public, which go through a verification process when received.
"There's a few different ways we check - we have moderators … and you know even by the description if you've been doing it if it's correct - if it's a report at 1am and say they saw a shark they're just blocked.
"We have Google verification tools which can compare uploaded media, so we know if it's from the internet or a genuine source."
Ms Beardmore said there was a lot of volunteer work involved in verifying the reports, but it was a crucial step in people trusting the service.
"We can see where the user posts from, and if they've reported a shark from Byron Bay but they are currently in Wollongong, we'll reach out and ask if it's the correct day," she said. "We take the time to verify those reports."
Reports also came in from regulars, such as fishers and lifeguards who were trusted sources.
The Dorsal app is available for free on both Android and iOS, and a GPS app is available for pilots and fishing boats which enable them to submit sightings.
A monthly subscription allows users to set up notifications on specific locations and funds the apps continuation.
Ms Beardmore said their purpose was all about keeping people informed and allowing them to make decision-based on the reports.
The app is live in Australia, mainland USA, Hawaii and Reunion Island and is a national platform here in Australia.
"We've had people thank us, and said before an attack they were going to go to a certain beach, and saw there'd been a shark in the area and didn't go - and then there was an attack," she said.
"Essentially we just want to save lives in a sustainable way with as little environmental impact."