An Adelaide teenager who created a shark alert Facebook page for a school project says its rise in popularity is beyond his “wildest dreams”, but is still a little disgruntled it only got a modest mark.
Regular beachgoer and former Charles Campbell College student Anton Covino created the page called Shark Alerts South Australia in March 2014.
He was in Year 12 at the time, and said he did not expect the page to reach 1,000 followers. It is now approaching 40,000.
“I actually started it as part of my research project. Back then, the shark cull was a big thing so I decided to do it on that,” he said.
“It was basically on ways of preventing shark attacks.
“[SA Police] is on Facebook. They post status updates all the time on what might be happening around South Australia and I thought I’d do the same thing about shark alerts.”
Mr Covino, aged 19 and from Hope Valley, said the page enabled people to report sightings immediately, and said it was currently the only service of its kind in South Australia.
“The information stems from both ground and aerial crews through Surf Life Saving SA, and the general public,” the keen kayaker said.
“It allows any sighting to be updated 24 hours a day.
“My phone’s basically buzzing with all of these notifications.”
Recent posts include reports of shark sightings at Sellicks Beach, Goolwa and Largs Bay, where a great white was spotted under the jetty.
Mr Covino said his focus this year would be developing an SMS service, as well as improving quality control.
“It’s all about getting in contact with the person who’s seen the shark. This year, we’re going to try and set up proper procedures on ways we can actually confirm the sightings are genuine,” he said.
“Coming up to 40,000 followers, we’re going to expect we’re going to get sightings that aren’t [geniune].”
Partnership with app developer beckons
Mr Covino said he was disappointed about the mark the work received, after he submitted it at school.
“I got a C+ for it. I wasn’t very happy with that!”
But he remains in no doubt about what it would get if it were re-graded today.
“It would have to be an A. If this was ways of preventing shark attacks, we’ve half done the job,” he said.
“The number of views we’re getting per post, we’ve definitely done a lot in alerting the public.”
Mr Covino said while he has not had any feedback from authorities, the response from individual surf life savers has been positive.
He is currently in talks with the developer of an app in Victoria called Dorsal about entering a partnership, to see if he can profit from his work.
He said his page would then become part of a nationwide network.
“This guy in Victoria, he’s actually dedicated a lot of time around his app [which] is actually going viral now around Australia,” he said.
“He wants to take over every other shark alert page in Australia. There’s five to 10 of us, and he’s going to split revenue between us all.”