Can Data Aggregation Save Sharks?


In the fall of 2013 there seemed to be a higher incidence of shark sightings at my local surf spot than there had been in several years. The local news showed up several times over the course of a few months to cover the sightings in the typical “scare the public” fashion in my opinion. Also during this time, more news was surfacing about Australia. Their government was actively killing sharks along their western coast if they were over a certain size in the name of public safety. Frustrated, I started an online presence that was dedicated to shark education and conservation. T-shirts and stickers were sold with the branding that I created and I donated a portion of the sales to a shark oriented charity. The presence grew, but I was still frustrated with the hype and the killing and really wanted to do more.

There exists a website that is run by a prominent shark researcher that has shark sighting data along the Pacific coast from 2003 to the present. Nearly 65% of these sightings comes from surfers and stand-up paddleboarders, which makes sense since we are in the water more often and for longer periods of time per visit than the average person. The data does have some bias but it is usable – nearly every shark sighted that someone reports the type is reported as a white shark. While this may or may not be the case, most of the reports from those who spend so much time in the water are accurately shark sightings. Sharks move and behave much differently than do dolphins or other inhabitants of the ocean and it doesn’t take long to understand the difference.

I contacted the researcher, Ralph Collier, and asked him if —> Read More