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Shark Deterrents Rated

Shark researchers from The University of Western Australia have reported clear differences in the effectiveness of a range of commercial shark deterrents and devices used with other aquatic vertebrates. The research found that:

  • flashing strobe lights can be effective as shark deterrents, and do deter sharks from biting but their effectiveness is restricted to strongly nocturnal and/or benthic bottom-dwelling shark species;
  • loud underwater sounds (both artificial sounds and natural orca calls) were not effective at deterring small sharks in the laboratory and had only a limited deterrent effect in the wild;
  • while some bubble curtain arrays were effective in deterring sharks for a very short time, after which sharks became familiar with them, altering the presentation of the bubbles improved their effectiveness; and
  • the Shark Shield™, an electrical device that can be attached to an ankle, surfboard or kayak, had a significant effect in deterring a range of shark species, including tiger sharks and white sharks, although further testing is still required to be statistically confident in the species-specific effects.

“We hope this will ultimately lead to the development of new shark deterrent technologies in the future,” said Prof Shaun Collin.

In separate research at UWA, Prof Mohammed Bennamoun’s team has developed advanced computer algorithms that allow for the automatic detection, identification and tracking of sharks from aerial videos. The system is powerful enough to distinguish sharks from other marine objects such as swimmers, boats and dolphins, and allows shark detection and tracking under challenging imaging conditions such as low light, strong sun reflections, poor contrast and fog.

“Automating marine species recognition would overcome a major bottleneck faced by marine scientists, who currently need to manually process underwater imagery to assess the health of our oceans,” Bennamoun said. “We will also be looking for a potential partner to commercialise our technology.”