A new app promises to protect swimmers from sharks—and sharks from humans.

By Stacey Leasca
April 12, 2018
Philip Waller/Image Source/Getty Images

Sharks really do get a bad rap. Sure, their giant teeth and unbelievable speed and strength make them scary to humans, but it’s key to remember that the odds of a fatal shark attack are 1 in 3,748,067.

However, if you’re still worried about the infinitesimal chance of meeting a shark face-to-face as you wade in the ocean this summer, you can relax just a bit because there’s a new app that may help stave off shark attacks.

The new Clever Buoy, developed by the Australian company Smart Marine Systems and backed by famed surfer Ian “Kanga” Cairns, promises to help track sharks before they ever reach swimmers in the water.

The monitoring system, the company describes on its site, is designed to be deployed beyond the “surf zone and utilizes multi beam sonar transducers that are mounted on the ocean floor coupled with newly developed detection software to scan for marine life.” It’s indeed far more high-tech and environmentally-friendly than old-school shark nets that often trap and kill other marine life.

Essentially, the buoy system creates a “virtual net” that will detect ocean creatures and quickly analyze movements to determine if they exhibit “shark-like movement patterns.” If they do, the system will transmit the information to lifeguards on the beach, notifying them of the potential shark, along with its location, in real-time. The system can identify a shark and send a notification in just seconds, according to the company.

Smart Marine Systems and Cairns are now hoping to bring the shark-tracking technology to the United States, specifically along the shores of Corona Del Mar, California, which happened to be the site of a serious but non-fatal attack on Maria Korcsmaros in May 2016. The team is currently crowdfunding the effort via IndieGoGo.

"I'm passionate about safety in the California surf, relating to sharks. I saw this same pattern happen in my home breaks of Western Australia where now there have been 15 fatalities since 2002," Cairns said in a statement about the crowdfunding effort.

Cairns added that because of the attack on Korcsmaros, and the fact that the beach has a well-defined border, this “gives us an ideal location for a demonstrative Clever Buoy installation.”

Clever Buoy is aiming to raise $25,000, with the funds going toward the necessary regulatory approvals and installation costs for a pilot deployment in California. So far, it has raised more than $5,300 toward its goal.

And truly, the system may be worth its price tag. According to the Orange County Register, Clever Buoy tested its system along Western Australia’s City Beach from Dec. 2016 to April 2017, during which time it detected 28 sharks, which led to 19 beach closures. So our finned friends can go about their business while swimmers enjoy some beach blanket time until the coast is clear. 

Related: Here’s Why Scientists Think That California Is Getting More Sharks