Scientists show that technology can save people from shark bites

PICTURE: Figure 5 – Three-dimensional plot of the number of people who will avoid shark bites from 2020-2066 to increase the percentage of people wearing electronic deterrents for Australia. The … view is shown More

Photo credit: Professor Corey Bradshaw, Flinders University.

With shark bites on the rise in countries like Australia, scientists say the use of personal electronic deterrents is an effective way to prevent future deaths and injuries that could save the lives of up to 1,063 Australians along the coast over the next 50 years.

The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, shows that while shark bites are rare occurrences, strategies to reduce the risk of shark bites are also valuable as they can be hard on victims and their support groups – with a third of victims being post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers analyzed per capita shark bites across Australia from 1900 to 2020 and developed models to gauge the preventative effects of electronic deterrents when worn by water users to predict how many shark bites could be avoided.

As the frequency of bites increases around the world, the researchers used the Australian shark attack file curated by Taronga Conservation Society Australia to develop the models of the incidents and forecast these shark bites by 2066, when the population is projected to rise to 49 million .

In the Australian Shark Attack File, 985 incidents of 20 different species were reported from 1900 to 2020.

Lead author Professor Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University says efforts to reduce the risk of shark bites, even if extremely rare, are valuable with electronic deterrents that reduce the chance of a bite by about 60% and potentially save hundreds of lives can next 50 years.

“Avoiding the death, injury, and trauma from shark bites for the next half century would be a realistic outcome if people use these personal electronic deterrents when they are in the water and while the technology is at full capacity.”

“Given that governments are using multiple approaches to mitigate shark bites such as drones, SMART drumlines, and audible surveillance, our simulations suggest that electronic deterrents can make a valuable contribution to overall mitigation, helping alleviate community fears to disperse. “

“This is especially true when you factor in the additional costs associated with losing tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in recreational, commercial and tourism revenue after clusters of shark bite events.”

“For example, the New South Wales government recently invested AU $ 16 million to mitigate shark bites, partly due to lost revenue from companies that benefit from water users and tourism.”

Despite the low chance of being bitten by a shark, the increasing number of people in shark-frequented waters increases the risk of shark bites to some extent.

The researchers point out that this approach is based on many assumptions. The biggest factors are the stability of shark wealth, shark behavior, shark distribution (possibly influenced by climate) and human use of the ocean.

Shark scientist and co-author Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers, head of the Southern Shark Ecology Group at Flinders University, says electronic deterrents can be beneficial as long as people understand their effectiveness and actually reduce the risk of attack.

“Although several studies have shown that electronic deterrents can reduce the chance of shark bites, the effectiveness of the devices varies between manufacturers and even between products from the same manufacturer.”

“When we scientifically test these products, we need a large number of interactions in order to be able to safely assess (ie, using robust statistics) effectiveness. Therefore, we often have to use bait or berley to attract sharks, which are likely to motivate sharks to do so. more than biting in situations where sharks encounter a swimmer or surfer. “

“Therefore, the ability of electrical deterrents to reduce the risk of shark bites could be greater than the 60% decrease seen in our studies, further increasing the number of lives saved.”


The paper by Corey Bradshaw, Phoebe Meagher, Madeline Thiele, Robert Harcourt and Charlie Huveneers (2021) reads: “Predicting a Possible Future Reduction in Shark Bites”. Royal Society Open Science 8: 201197. doi: 10.1098 / rsos.201197

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