A team of international researchers, led by SOS Founders, Dr. Ryan Kempster and Channing Egeberg, have revealed test results showing the effectiveness of a commercially available electric shark deterrent, the Shark Shield Freedom 7TM.
The independent research, published in the journal PLoS One, concluded that upon first encounter with a Shark ShieldTM, all approaching white sharks were effectively deterred by an average of 1.3 metres.
After multiple approaches, individual white sharks showed signs of habituation to the Shark ShieldTM, which decreased the effective field of the deterrent by an average of 12 centimetres per approach. However, despite an increase in tolerance, 89% of white sharks continued to be deterred from biting or interacting with the bait when in the presence of an active Shark ShieldTM.
Testing was carried out in Mossel Bay, South Africa in 2014. The research involved the deployment of a custom-built stereo-camera system, equipped with either an inactive (control) or an active Shark ShieldTM. The specific configuration of the stereo cameras allowed the researchers to accurately determine how close white sharks approached the electrodes of the Shark ShieldTM using a video analysis technique traditionally used for measuring the size of fish. A total of 322 encounters were analysed from 41 individual white sharks ranging from two to four metres in length.
Dr. Kempster said that only one white shark interacted with the bait in the presence of an active Shark ShieldTM, and this only occurred after multiple approaches to the device.
“Although the effectiveness of the Shark ShieldTM likely varies between species, the fact that white sharks are implicated in the majority of fatal incidents globally suggests that a deterrent that effectively deters this species should be an important safety consideration for a range of ocean users,” Dr. Kempster said.
“The research found no evidence that the Shark ShieldTM attracted sharks from a greater distance, which is a common myth among surfers, and showed that the Shark ShieldTM can reduce white shark interactions.”
Channing Egeberg, co-lead on the project,
said that “the findings of this research finally
provide the public with an effective solution to reduce the risk of
a shark-related injury.” She went on to say that “the public should
be aware, however, that this research does not imply effectiveness
of any other similar deterrents, and that more research on the range
of commercially available devices is still needed”.
The research involved scientists from Support Our Sharks, the University of Western Australia, Macquarie University, Flinders University, and Oceans Research in South Africa.
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