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What is Dorsal and how did it start?

Dorsal was created after the wave of shark sightings and attacks around the wider Ballina region in 2014/15 and was kicked into gear when a Tasmanian diver was killed in front of his daughter by a 4.5m White Shark.

In many of these cases, people had reported seeing a shark in the area the day prior but had no way to alert anyone about it. On the flip side, there was no central portal for people to access sightings from around their area before entering the water.

After doing some research, we quickly realised there were no centralised, national solution for reporting / informing about shark sightings and thus, Dorsal was born.

What started as a small side project quickly escalated to the full 360 degree reporting solution for shark sightings Dorsal has evolved to.

It consists of taking Public and Official sightings from various sources and pushing those reports out to the wider community.

The Dorsal solution is made up of several key components, including the Dorsal Scan alert and distribution system that keeps us informed within minutes of any shark sightings from the top 100 sites in Australia. Users can also submit reports via the apps and website for verification and distribution by the Dorsal team. Those reports are fed into the backend database that manages the reports and stores all shark reporting data and statistics. Then there is the various outlets for reports including website, iPhone and Android apps, Facebook and Twitter pages.

Why is Dorsal unique?

Dorsal is Australia’s only national shark reporting and alerts system.

  • It is the only national solution that reports on all official shark sightings as well as allowing the public to submit their own
  • It is the fastest way to alert the public to warnings and sightings, with most reports going out in under 5 minutes
  • It covers the widest base of communication channels, with web, Facebook, Twitter and iPhone and Android apps all updated at the same time
  • It actually pushes alerts to your phone, rather than you having to go and seek the information
  • It allows users to customise the app to only receive info based on a 50kms radius of their location or their favourite breaks

Official v Public Reports – what is the difference?

Our Dorsal team monitors over 100 Australian websites and social media pages, receiving any reports that go live within minutes. These are then reposted to Dorsal users asap with sources referenced. All official reports are tagged as Official Shark Report. Generally only reports from Surf Lifesaving, Government Departments or the Police will ever have an Official Tag.

We also receive public reports from all over Australia. This involves users submitting reports via our Dorsal iPhone or Android apps or via the online submission form. When submitting the report, users have to confirm the date and time, location of the sighting, the type of shark involved (if known) as well as provide a detailed summary of the sighting. Additional info such as distance from shore, weather conditions, shark length, type of encounter and photos are also encouraged.

We then get these reports sent to our team who verify the initial reports and then validate with the person submitting the report before approving and sending out to Dorsal users.

How do you verify Public reports?

We currently have a system in place for approving Public reports. This includes:

  • Submitters providing their email, mobile numbers or Facebook profiles for submission
  • All reports get vetted by the Dorsal team to ensure the content of the original report is complete and legitimate
  • We also filter all images that come through using an integrated Google Image recognition
  • Checking the person submitting a report against our Dorsal blacklist
  • Contacting the user via Instant Messenger, Email, Text or Phone Call to expand on the report

If we aren’t satisfied with the original report and/or don’t receive any follow up explanations from our enquiries, then the report wont be approved or sent out. To date, we only approve about a third of Public reports that come through and always err on the side of caution.

Please note that all Dorsal users agree to be bound by the Dorsal Terms and Conditions found here:

What happens with Fake or Hoax reports?

If any reports are submitted that don’t meet the criteria or the submitter fails to respond to communication seeking verification from Dorsal, they are deleted from the backend.

Where a report falls through the cracks and is published and only to be found to be fake, we remove the report from all channels and block the person from the system. If necessary, the offenders details are also passed on to the relevant authorities.

I submitted my report and it still has not gone live?

As per our verification procedure, only vetted reports get approved sent out.

If your report has not gone live, it is likely we have asked for further information from you. We generally hold reports on file for 24hrs while we wait for additional info.

To find our questions, please go to any of the following:

  • Your Notifications on your Phone – you would normally receive an Instant Message from us with queries relating to your report
  • Your Report or Profile Page in the App – all Instant Messages get stored in both of these areas on the App
  • Your nominated Email account – be sure to also check your Junk folder
  • Your text messages

Also, if you report is over a day old, it wont get pushed to Dorsal users, however it will be available on the App, Website and stored in the database for people to view.

If you have not received any message and your report is legitimate, then please contact us via email at

Why do I get reports that are a day old?

At Dorsal, we have a policy of reporting all sightings that are up to a day old.

There are several reasons for this:

1. We can only report sightings when we are given them, which can often be a day late. Coupled with trying to verify the content, this can cause delays of minutes to hours.

2. We also add reports that are older than a day old to the database to help people know about sightings in their area. Often people will look at up to a week of sightings, which means we need to keep old sightings on file

3. Finally, while sharks do travel great distances, they can often hang around. The very reason this service started is because there have been incidents where people who were attacked the day after a sighting of a similar shark in the exact same area

Should I rely on Dorsal before getting in the water to ensure I don’t get attacked?

Dorsal is a risk reduction service, not a failsafe solution to protecting yourself from sharks.

We certainly can’t monitor every shark in the ocean or capture and provide details on every sighting from the public.

We make no warranties as to the accuracy of the information provided, either from Official or Public channels.

We do our best to verify them as quickly and accurately as possible, but ultimately the user needs to make their own mind up about the hazards associated with entering what is the sharks natural habitat.

You should follow some of these well know risk reduction strategies as well as consider the various repellent devices as part of your wider personal risk reduction strategy.

Please note that all Dorsal users agree to be bound by the Dorsal Terms and Conditions found here:

Why cant I download Dorsal outside of Australia?

Dorsal is currently only available in Australia as this is the only region we service at the moment.

We also don’t want accidental or hoax reports coming from around the world given how time consuming each report is to verify, so we limit the availability of the app.

We will be expanding to USA and Hawaii shortly where we have the system set up and currently beta testing.

How does the app work with/interact with official bodies?

At the moment it is a manual process. We montior all the official feeds and will report within minutes of any official report going out.

We have reached out to a variety of Government bodies and Private organisations around Australia and are in ongoing discussions about feeding their shark data from listening stations, CleverBuoys and drones directly into the Dorsal solution.

We have also invited all relevant bodies in Australia to utilise the Dorsal solution to a) keep informed of public sightings for investigation b) report on those investigations or confirm/deny and c) post their own sightings and hazards to the Dorsal user base.

How many users do you have on the system?

Dorsal currently services over 150,000 people in Australia across its apps and websites.

Can I use your sightings on my own site?

Yes. You can access all API documentation via the API Library and Tutorials page.

Does the app or service cost anything?

No, Dorsal is completely free.

Is it aimed at only surfers or anyone that enters the water?

It was designed primarily for surfers given many of the attacks have involved surfers, but it is available for everyone to be aware, including ocean swimmers, fishermen and divers.

Will you be making an app for Windows phones?

Not in the short term. We are currently looking at this but it is a low priority. You can access the reports from any of the non-app based sources listed below

Will there be an SMS or Phone in service in the future?

Yes, we are currently looking at an SMS and 1800 number solution for those who want to use these services.

How do I get reports if I am in the water?

We are currently working on a new waterproof wearable that will hook up to the various data sources to alert people while in water.

More info will be available on this shortly, however it is still a little while away.

How do I get in contact with Dorsal?

General Enquiries:
Australian Enquiries:
USA Enquiries:
Hawaii Enquiries: