Madeline Thiele, Johann Mourier, Yannis Papastamatiou, Laurent Ballesta, Eric Chateauminois & Charlie Huveneers.
Globally, the frequency of shark bites is rising, resulting in an increasing demand for shark deterrents and measures to lessen the impact of shark bites on humans. Most existing shark protection measures are designed to reduce the probability of a bite, but fabrics that minimise injuries when a shark bite occurs can also be used as mitigation devices.
Here, researchers assessed the ability of the Ocean Guardian SCUBA7 and Kevlar material to reduce the likelihood of blacktip reef sharks, Carcharhinus melanopterus, from feeding, and to minimise injuries from shark bites. Sharks were enticed to consume a small piece of local reef fish (bait) placed between the two SCUBA7 electrodes with the deterrents randomly being turned on or kept off. In the second experiment, the bait was attached to a small pouch made of either standard neoprene or neoprene with a protective layer of Kevlar around it.
The SCUBA7 reduced the proportion of baits being taken by 67%, (from 100% during control trials to 33%). Sharks also took more time to take the bait when the device was active (165 ± 20.40 s vs. 38.9 ± 3.35 s), approached at a greater distance (80.98 ± 1.72 cm vs. 38.88 ± 3.20 cm) and made a greater number of approaches per trial (19.38 ± 2.29 vs. 3.62 ± 0.53) than when the SCUBA7 was inactive.
The sizes of punctures from shark bites were significantly smaller on neoprene with Kevlar compared to standard neoprene (3.64 ± 0.26 mm vs. 5.88 ± 0.29 mm). The number of punctures was also fewer when Kevlar was used (14.92 ± 3.16 vs. 74.1 ± 12.44). Overall, the Ocean Guardian Scuba7 and Kevlar reduced the impact of blacktip reef shark bites.
These findings may help consumers make informed decisions when purchasing shark deterring and protective products.