Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

Generalised Information

Western Australia’s Shark Hazard api

  • API use?
  • What is it?
  • What's it for?
  • Information Sources
  • Current Workflows
  • Coastal features data
  • Other information
API use? 

Although this .api provides some real time shark hazard data - the .api is incomplete and should not be used to provide safety notifications or advice on potential shark hazards to the public.

Work in progress:
  • The development of this .api is a work in progress, and does not provide a complete information feed of the shark hazard information collected and distributed by the WA Government.
  • Developers should not distribute, publish, allow access or link to this .api to provide safety notifications on potential shark hazards while the .api remains incomplete.
While under development:
  • The delivery of information by the .api and .api use, cannot be guaranteed.
  • The content and configuration of the .api may change at any time .
Developers can check back to this page for status updates. This page will be updated once the project is complete.
Until the .api is complete, up to date information on the latest reported sightings and tagged shark detections is available at: or

What is it?
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has opened up access to aggregated data from our custom systems used to communicate shark hazard information, as part of Western Australia’s shark notification and response system.

We are providing detection and sightings data via JSON API.  

What's it for?
Our systems currently provide ‘real time’ information on shark sightings and detections to response agencies and the public so they can make an informed decision about their water use.

Information Sources
Shark hazard information provided in Western Australia consists of;
  1. Reported shark sightings. These are all shark sightings reported to the Water Police Coordination Centre. In Western Australia the Water Police Coordination Centre is the single channel for reporting all shark sightings from lifeguards, government agencies, or the public,
  2. Tagged shark detections. These are notifications triggered when a shark fitted with an acoustic transmitter (also known as a tag) swims within 500m of a satellite-linked receiver. There are 27 satellite linked receivers in waters across the state.
Current workflows:
We have custom built systems which automatically send sighting reports and tagged shark detections in real-time to the following platforms: 
  • Information is sent by text to beach management officers such as Lifeguards or Rangers, so they can close beaches, or erect warning signs if needed;
  • Mapped on the SharkSmart website, shark activity map, so the public can visually check for recent shark activity close to their location; and
  • Tweets are posted from Surf Life Saving WA’s twitter feed notifying their 46,000 followers of a potential shark hazard.
The information is sent simultaneously by our systems in these three ways; it's automated and usually posts in under a minute, so the information to the public is consistent - and people have the latest information when deciding to using the beach.
The workflow for the communication of shark hazard information is described below:

The system is a partnership between the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Water Police and Surf Life Saving WA.
In addition to sighting and detections, alerts are issued by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development when ongoing environmental conditions indicate there is a heightened risk of a member of the public encountering a shark.  This information is issued by media release, posted on the SharkSmart website, and a link to the information is tweeted by Surf Life Saving WA.
Coastal features data
An important element of the system which posts reported sightings is the coastal features dataset, which includes over 5,500 pre-mapped coastal locations.
To facilitate this, a new GIS data set was developed, using Landgate (Genoma) information as a base, cross referenced with national records provided by Surf Life Saving WA (ABSAMP beaches database). Today, DPIRD in conjunction with regional stakeholders, continues to add common or local names previously not included in any centralised database (such as local surf break names).
Part of the terms of use for any of the shark data is that the Coastal Features dataset information must be read in full prior to any use of the geographical information. In addition, any use of the latitude and longitude search, and nearest function should consider the coastal features data set document, and specifically the way the location X and Y have been developed to ensure relevant information is captured.
Key considerations include:
  • Detections are shown at the location of the receiver and may have occurred up to 500m from that point.
  • Sightings should refer to the full description of the coastal features dataset so that relevant geographical information is captured.
    • A maximum of two points are registered for each known beach or coastal feature name.
    • The recorded X and Y coordinate for each coastal location within 1km of shore are placed at the centre point of the beach or closest water feature (eg. reef).  A second point is located 1km offshore from the centre point of the beach.
    • Where the coastal feature is not a beach, there is no off-shore location recorded. The default X and Y coordinates are used. 
This approach has been used within the existing business systems, so mapped information can be aggregated on a single point, or pin. Relevant risk information can then be presented, rather than pins overlapping and potentially being obscured.
Utilising the coastal features dataset also allows information to be quickly and automatically pushed using the coastal feature name provided at the time of the report, which is consistent with existing business processes.
The determination of the 1km point is based on current beach closure procedures for shark hazards, where shark sightings reported inside 1km of shore, are more likely to trigger a beach closure.  
Other information
  • Western Australia’s approach to communicating shark hazard mitigation has been under development since 2012. The system became fully operational in November 2014. We understand our approach, to collect and report all shark hazard information into one single data stream, is a world first for shark hazard mitigation.
  • The use of technology to provide public safety alerts for tagged sharks was pioneered in Western Australia, with a custom system developed to interpret and transmit tag information in real-time.  Any detection data from a shark of a size and species that could present a risk to the public is transmitted via satellite before automatically being relayed to safety agencies and the public. The system monitors over 860 sharks, including 258 white sharks tagged by the DPIRD and its research partners.   The success of the Shark Monitoring Network can be evidenced by the fact that the NSW Government recently implemented a similar network – after making a formal approach to WA for assistance, including the provision of the data system to disseminate information for public safety warnings. 
  • How the SharkSmart map works:  The map shows all the details of reported sightings and tagged shark detections for WA on a single map. The map can also show any current alerts or warnings for shark hazards, latest tweets, and an alert bar that appears if any new information comes through whilst the user is looking at the map.  (An alert is issued if there is an increased risk – for example, if there is a whale carcass that might attract sharks close to the beach, or a known aggregation of schooling or spawning fish).  The map works like a google map, - click on a pin – and it shows you the details of reports and detections at that location.  
  • The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development comprises the former departments of Agriculture and Food, Fisheries and Regional Development, together with the staff of the Regional Development Commissions.