Technology could save us from shark bites

The technology of repelling electric sharks was first proposed in the 1990s, based on a special short-range electrical receptor system, the sharks named Lorenzini ampoules. Located on the muzzle, these jelly-filled pores (which resemble blackheads) can sense weak electrical signals from nearby potential prey. Therefore, using the advantage of this sensitive feeling, scientists have invested money in creating repellents that create electric fields that aim to overcome Lorenzini shark ampoules.

The science behind it seems simple – to generate an artificial electric field using electrodes immersed in seawater as a guide – but not all distractions from electric sharks are the same. Most personal claims about the effectiveness of deterrence “are based on our knowledge of the sensory biology of sharks, not on robust testing of the devices themselves, because most have not been subjected to independent scientific studies,” as previously stated by researchers at the University of Western Australia. The results on whether a device will significantly reduce the risk of negative interaction with sharks differ on which commercially available deterrent shark you are talking about.

It should come as no surprise that much of the research being done on these non-lethal solutions to protect individuals comes from Australian universities, due to the growing interaction people seem to have there (as reported in the Australian shark attack dossier). And while shark scientists are not giving the green light to any current deterrents, new research on modeling from Flinders University says proper use of personal electronic deterrents is an effective way to prevent future deaths and injuries. In fact, it is estimated that these devices could save up to 1,063 Australian lives along the coast in the next 50 years! “Avoiding death, injury and trauma from shark bites for the next half century would be a realistic outcome if people use these personal electronic deterrents whenever they are in the water, and as long as the technology works at capacity,” lead author Professor Corey Bradshaw. “Given that governments apply multiple approaches to alleviate shark bites such as drones, SMART drums and acoustic surveillance, our simulations suggest that electronic deterrence could make a valuable contribution to overall mitigation and thus help alleviate community fears.”

Led by Bradshaw, the team analyzed shark bites per capita in Australia from 1900 to 2020 and developed models to assess the preventive effect of electronic deterrents if water users wore them to predict how many shark bites they could avoid. Shark bites are rare – according to the International Shark Attack Dossier you have a risk of 1 to 3,748,067 – but the results show that electronic deterrents are able to reduce the likelihood of a bite by about 60%.

Co-author, Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers, who heads the environmental shark group at Flinders University, says electronic deterrent devices can be useful as long as people understand how much they actually reduce the risk of attack. “Although several studies have shown that electronic deterrents can reduce the likelihood of shark bites, the effectiveness of the device varies among manufacturers, and even among products from the same manufacturer. When we scientifically test these products, we need a large number of interactions in order to (ie using robust statistics) reliably assess the effectiveness, ”he explained. “As a result, we often have to use bait or barley to attract sharks, which probably motivates sharks to bite more than in situations where sharks encounter a swimmer or surfer. Therefore, the ability of electrical scarecrows to reduce the risk of shark bites could be greater than the 60% reduction we observed in our research, which further increases the number of lives saved. “

And while personal electrical distractions may not be the answer all shark researchers agree on, perhaps different technology can help protect swimmers and surfers from sharks. Around the world, beach visitors see helicopters and drones deployed on some beaches to detect sharks, alerting people to a shark that is too close to comfort. But what if drones were not only used to detect sharks … but also to repel them? Researchers at the University of New South Wales have proposed the use of an “Autonomous Shark Shark,” which uses flying drones to prevent and prevent shark attacks through an inflatable tube that essentially releases an electric shark bumper into the water when a shark is spotted. These drones have not yet been tested “in the wild”, with their “efficiency” […] proven by computer simulation. “

Regardless of the technology used to protect us, ocean users should be very critical of any shark deterrence requirements because they could give someone a false sense of security. In the meantime, future research will continue to address the behavioral responses of a number of shark species to determine differences in the efficacy of these species-specific devices.