I watched everyone’s favorite summer movie, jaws, again on the weekend. Fortunately, our relationship with sharks is a long way from what we saw in the movie. We put the facts straight and move away from outdated security methods. And the most valuable tool in the prevention of shark bites is technology.
Shark bites are incredibly rare
Incidents of sharks biting humans are rare. According to the International Shark Attack File137 alleged shark bites occurred last year.
Most attacks are related to surfing (51%). Only 11 resulted in death – that is less than a third of US beach drownings so far this year.
But our approach to shark bites is much more reactive than to preventing drowning.
Shark nets and culls are obsolete
Traditionally, reactions to shark bites have involved a heavy-handed approach to culling, such as using sharknets† These are sunken walls of net that hang in the water and are aimed at reducing (culling) the shark population.
However, research has shown that only 10% of their catch is sharks as they unfortunately also trap dolphins, whales and turtles.
Nets are no longer used in Cape Town, Florida, New Zealand and Hawaii, but Australia is unfortunately still catching up.
Fortunately, there is now an arsenal of technology to help prevent and reduce the impact of shark bites.
This week there was a lifeguard in Long Island bitten and died while playing the role of victim during a training exercise in the ocean. In response, beach patrols were deployed drones to patrol local beaches to look for sharks.
But there are also other options such as: smart buoy† This autonomous marine monitoring platform uses sonar technology with advanced pattern recognition software and detects various forms of large marine life. This data is relayed to lifeguards in real time.
Clever Buoy can operate sustainably 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in open ocean conditions and autonomously monitor marine life and environmental conditions.
In combination with drones, it is an important tool in the prevention of shark bites.
An Australian company has created a wearable device that uses sound to repel sharks.
The Personal shark repellent (PSR) emits a proprietary acoustic frequency that repels, but does not harm, sharks.
More than ten species of sharks in various locations worldwide have been consistently repelled between five and ten meters. It switches itself on and off automatically via sensors that detect the presence of water.
Also from Australia is shark suit† The company has made wetsuits from fabric that can withstand live shark bites.
The wetsuits are made of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene nanofiber (UHMWPE). The fabric has a strength-to-weight ratio that is 50% greater than Kevlar and 8-15 times greater than steel.
The material can withstand the considerable force of a shark bite.
Furthermore it is supports only minimal punctures on only the most severe bite attacks to avoid the catastrophic blood loss and loss of limb that cause death in many shark attacks.
It’s worth noting that while there’s a lot of great technology out there (especially in Australia), it gets only limited media coverage worldwide. The media has long been criticized for bloodthirsty in front of “shark attacks†
Only this week we also saw two women killed of shark bites in Egypt’s Red Sea, with news stories including lots of gory footage.
This doesn’t help change the cultural conversation around the fear of sharks. Education still has a long way to go. Jaws the movie was all about shark culling, but these days, preventing shark bites is just as much about respect and conservation.