Tracking A Great White Shark Off Cape Cod? There’s An App For That Now, And It’s Called Sharktivity

Hundreds of great white sharks have officially set up shop in the ocean along Cape Cod’s coastline for the summer, and thanks to the efforts of intrepid researchers studying the region’s growing population, beachgoers have a new tool with which to track the animals, alerting them to the sharks’ presence in nearby waters.

That tool is a smartphone app, and it is called Sharktivity. Available for the iPhone as of July 1, Sharktivity is a free app that allows beachgoers to follow shark sightings and activity in and around Cape Cod and beyond. Produced by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in conjunction with two socially responsible businesses, Everglades Boats and Amelia Rose Designs, the application also allows the general public to be enlisted as ‘citizen scientists’ by reporting their own sightings and uploading photos, thereby providing researchers with a new world of potentially valuable data.

Sharktivity came about not only through the efforts of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, but also thanks to the staff at the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and towns located in Cape Cod and the South Shore. As the Cape Cod Chronicle notes, each town in the Lower Cape will designate two key officials who will bear primary responsibility for posting shark alerts through the application. Users will then receive those alerts, whether or not they’re logged into the application.

While Sharktivity will at first only be available for Apple phones, an Android version is in the works. In addition, the data collected from the application will be made available in real time to the general public by way of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s website.

Though there is a distinct possibility of hoax sightings being reported through Sharktivity, the team behind the app have taken steps to mitigate those risks. Reports submitted by beachgoers will be vetted before being uploaded, and anyone documenting a sighting will be required to provide their phone number. In addition, Sharktivity records the location of any phone from which a report is made, allowing researchers to dismiss any sightings reported away from the water.

While the application stands to potentially be a major source of data for researchers, it also has a role to play in regards to local beach safety as the Conservancy’s Executive Director, Cynthia Wigren, pointed out.

“The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is strongly committed to public safety and we work closely with Federal, State, and Town officials on educational materials and safety tips for beachgoers. This app will be yet another tool to raise awareness and provide the public with information on white shark activity across the East Coast.”

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy recently began its third season of research aimed at the cape’s itinerant white shark population. Currently in the midst of a five-year-long population study undertaken in conjunction with the state Division of Marine Fisheries, the non-profit managed to identify 141 individual white sharks last year, and as the Boston Globe notes, 101 of the apex predators were documented for the first time in the region.

Earlier this week, Dr. Greg Skomal successfully tagged the second white shark of the season near the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge off Chatham. The species has made its presence known in dramatic fashion since first arriving in the cape for the summer, with researchers witnessing two separate predation events in a single week. Beachgoers observed and recorded a similar event last week as a great white shark struck a seal just offshore from Provincetown.

With these incidents already recorded so early in the season, researchers are hoping to see this year’s shark count exceed the numbers recorded in 2015. Those results surpassed the previous season’s by far, so it remains to be seen what the next few months will bring as the conservancy sets out to document Cape Cod’s great white sharks for yet another summer.

[Photo by Travelbag LTD via Flickr | Cropped and Resized | CC BY 2.0]