The ocean is very ironic in a way. It’s a vast, beautiful ecosystem for all creatures to enjoy. It’s also terrifying, especially when you think of the number of variables you can’t control when smack dab in the middle of it. Whether you’re a surfer, windsurfer, bodyboarder, or any watersport enthusiast, your time on the water is always a risk. Large waves can crash down on you at any minute, you can get beaten up by a deadly coral reef, or you can get caught in a nasty current that sweeps you out to no man’s land. Most lovers of the ocean can agree that the risk is certainly worth the reward and those with experience calculate most of these risks. Unfortunately, there are certain risks that are almost near impossible to calculate. One of the main risks is a shark attack.
Shark Repellent Devices
The overwhelming growth in fear due to the media and expansion in tourism has led to an industry of shark repellent device manufacturers. These shark repellent companies make scientific claims to help sell their products, though the certainty in their “rigorous testing” is questionable. There are many shark repellent companies that claim their products are the best and safest to use. As many of these devices are fairly new in the grand scheme of things, there is not a whole lot of information out there comparing them all. We’re here to give you a rundown of whether or not these things actually work with the available information that is out there.
Electrical Shark Repellents
Electrical repellents are made to over-stimulate a shark’s electro receptors in order to deter a shark from honing in on you. Electrical shark repellents like Shark Shield essentially work to produce a small electric field around a surfer or diver that’s too weak to affect a human, but strong enough to have an overloading effect on a shark’s senses. The idea is that prey emit bio-electric fields that shark use to detect and hunt them. These bio-electric fields are very weak and almost totally undetectable by a shark after about 3-feet. This is also because electric fields are attenuated when in the water, making them even more difficult to detect.
The point is that these electric fields would only realistically work to deter a shark if it was within a few feet of you. The team at Shark Shield has conducted studies to see the viability of the product, and it has been shown effective in deterring sharks from grabbing bait. While that may seem like a positive, there is a big difference between a piece of bait on a string and a large, living and breathing human. Plus, if you consider that it only could work within a 3-foot radius, it wouldn’t do much help if a shark were darting at you full speed.
Magnetic Shark Repellents
Another type of shark repellent that we are beginning to see a lot of products on the market for is magnetic repellent. The theory is that these work in the same manner that an electric repellent would in over-stimulating a shark’s electro-receptors. Whether or not these actually have a similar effect is the big question. Sharks can surely detect magnetic fields, as that is how they navigate underwater. The information that is missing in the science community is whether sharks are using the magnetic field itself or the electric energy that is within the magnetic field.
Similar tests have been conducted with bait, sharks, and magnetic repellents like Sharkbanz, and the same results have been shown. Some sharks have definitely been deterred from attacking, but not all sharks and not every time. Other studies have been shown that sharks become MORE attracted to bait when it is equipped with magnets. Essentially, the proof isn’t quite there.
The idea that wearing certain patterns in the water can deter sharks is a new but possibly brilliant idea. This methodology is one that many sensory biologists are researching and studies have started to be released stating that wearing ‘camouflage’ suits or certain patterns can actually deter sharks from wanting to attack you. Obviously the same variable is an issue, in that the testing has been performed with bait rather than a human, but of course that’s the obvious ethical dilemma.
One of the other main issues with this methodology is that sharks rely on most of their other sense to hunt, including their taste and smell, as their vision is pretty lousy. Certain species of sharks that have been deterred by other types of shark repellents, including bull and tiger sharks, are colorblind. This means that relying on color alone would not necessarily work.
A new shark repellent known as the “Elude” has been created with patterns of marine life that sharks typically stray away from, including sea snakes and lionfish. The main idea here is if sharks saw this pattern, they wouldn’t have the slightest bit of interest in getting any close to snag a bite. It uses the same cloaking ability that some fish in the ocean use to camouflage themselves from predators. We’ll have to wait until more studies are released to give a more definitive answer on this one, but we highly recommend checking out these suits to find out more.
So have any of these shark repellents been proven to work?
As of now, not necessarily. To have certainty, we need to see more published studies that are peer reviewed. For now, we only have speculations and independent testing claims. There is also a major difference between a company saying that their shark repellent product is effective and the scientific community says that the methodology is solid.
If you look on the Internet, you can certainly find articles and studies that show the effectiveness of magnetic repellents reducing the probability of sharks snagging a piece of bait or studies that stronger electrical fields will stop a shark from approaching closer. All in all, that does not mean they are proven. All we can say for certain is that it MAY help in the case of a shark attack. That brings us to our next point.
We spend far too much time thinking about shark attacks and how to prevent them until we begin to realize that some things can’t be controlled. The thing is, shark attacks are extremely rare. There are some things that could trigger a shark attack, one of them being the feeling of encroachment on a shark’s territory by a large group of people. To bring it back around to the beginning of the article, there are risks that we have to accept every time we enter the ocean. If you’re a surfer, diver, or watersports enthusiast, and you decide to perform in a part of the ocean where sharks are often present, you are taking a risk. It’s like walking naked into a bee farm or running through a bear’s cave. That may seem ridiculous, but the point is you are entering territory that wasn’t necessarily meant for you to enter.
So should I get a shark repellent device?
Honestly, if it makes you feel safer or have some peace of mind when you’re in the water, you should definitely go for it! Scientifically speaking, we don’t believe they have any true merit at this point. It’s tough to give a concrete answer and most of it comes down to preference. Hopefully we can find some more information within the next few years to change our minds. Until then, don’t be afraid to go in the ocean. Life is a risk, but a risk that should be enjoyed! Wanna learn to surf in Tenerife? Call us !