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Modern Shark Attack Prevention

Posted August 07, 2013 10:18 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: ANIMAL SCIENCE shark shark attack

The images are memorable: a nude coed goes twilight swimming alone; she never comes back. Lifeguards warn families that they're children are at risk of devour. A harpooned great white drags a boat backwards, before finishing off its captain. The shark is shredded into pieces off by an exploding scuba tank.

But it's the soundtrack that makes the movie Jaws unforgettable. The film's score has been credited as the sixth-greatest ever. The melody is an alternating pattern of E and F notes played on a tuba; composer John Williams said the tones represent the shark as unstoppable, mindless, instinctive, and extremely aggressive.

While sharks do kill about 15 people each year, it's far less than the nearly 2 million people killed by mosquitoes each year, and 100 people killed by jellyfish. As a New Yorker, I am ten times more likely to get bit by a person riding the train to Yankee Stadium than by a shark anywhere in the world. The perception that something is more dangerous than it truly is is known as 'mean world syndrome', and sharks are definitely a victim of that.

Author Peter Menchley, who wrote the Jaws novel, spent the last decades of his life trying to improve the negative public perception of sharks for which he was in-part responsible. This week Discovery Channel kicked off its annual weeklong block of shark programming known as Shark Week. Though usually educational, they probably do as much harm as good with the sensationalism of some of their recent shark reporting. This year's edition started off with claims that megalodon, a shark that has definitively been extinct for 1.5 million years, might still be alive and terrorizing everything.

Perhaps most shockingly is that 30% of shark species are at risk for extinction. While several issues are the cause (global warming, pollution), the most solvable problem would be finding a sustainable way to harvest shark fins for shark fin soup, a common Chinese delicacy. Current practices include cutting the fin from the shark at sea and putting the shark back in the ocean. The shark is left unable to swim, and it will suffer a very cruel death.

How can we help conserve these sublime predators? Well, first we need to get people to be less scared of them, and some old concepts applied in a revolutionary way may drastically reduce shark attacks, or eliminate them altogether. And no, it isn't shark spray.

Rather, scientists are relying on camouflage to confuse or ward off sharks who might be thinking about chomping on a human. This research was funded by the government of Australia, where more shark attacks occur than anywhere else. Researchers concluded that sharks were colorblind, and though they rely on other senses for hunting, eyesight is crucial as it goes in for the kill. The first concept was a bodysuit that is essentially camouflage that reduces the contrast of the person wearing it with the rest of the water.

To repel sharks, researchers mimicked the patterns of the poisonous sea snake which sharks have learned to avoid. These wet suits have a high contrast the sharks can see from a longer distance, but the hope is that they will want nothing to do with a pseudo-sea snake. A wetsuit that resembles the pattern of a toxic lionfish has been produced as well. The camouflage concept has also been applied to surfboards. The underside of the surfboard has decals that resemble the markings found on pilot fish. Pilot fish often swim right next to sharks to eat parasites and debris left in the shark's mouth; they enjoy a mutualist relationship.

While extensive testing needs to be completed to determine the exact value of shark camouflage, initial trials observed that sharks were very apprehensive about eating bait that was wrapped in these camouflage patterns. This low-tech, passive technology may not be impressive, but it is at the forefront of shark attack prevention technology. Best of all, it's relatively cheap. The only other anti-shark device available is called the Shark Shield. It sells for $600 and produces a small electrical field underwater that supposedly wards of sharks - of course, there are no guarantees.

There is a sign the social discourse about sharks is changing. In 2009, 25 shark bite victims went to Washington D.C. to ask representatives to enact better legislation that outlaws the possession of shark fins on any U.S. vessel. While some countries may not have the progressive environmental legislation of the U.S., the possibility exists for those nations to have a change in perception about sharks.

Resources

Wikipedia - Shark fin soup; Shark attack; Shark Conservation Act

Most Dangerous Animals

Shark repelling wetsuits look cool...

Will These Wetsuits Actually Deter Shark Attacks, or Just Encourage Them?

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Guru

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#1

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/07/2013 3:58 PM

I have found living in North Dakota in the middle of the North American Continent to be highly effective against shark bite or attacks.

Zero documented cases here in all of recorded history!

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/08/2013 12:53 AM

So far...

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#6
In reply to #1

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/08/2013 1:40 PM

No Land Sharks ?

Probably too cold.

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#10
In reply to #1

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/13/2013 9:03 PM

Bull sharks are in the Big Muddy and maybe even in the Big Mo by now. So don't be too sure about that statement. ha ha !

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#3

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/08/2013 9:22 AM

I suggest not swimming in the ocean at night since the predators come close to shore to feed. Early morning and dusk are particularly dangerous. This information came from SCUBA training and discussions from persons that study ocean species. Keep night time swimming in a pool or protected area just to be safer.

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#4

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/08/2013 10:49 AM
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#5

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/08/2013 12:11 PM

"The images are memorable: a nude coed goes twilight swimming alone..."

I suspect a two legged shark. The most dangerous.

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#7

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/09/2013 2:03 PM
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#8

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/13/2013 5:06 AM

Always swim with lawyers. Then the sharks will leave you alone out of professional courtesy.

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#9

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/13/2013 9:01 PM

Shark Story. . . . . .

Circa 1980's. I am wading past the third sandbar along the Cameron parish beach with my then 8 year old nephew on my shoulders.

He has his Zebco rod and reel and I have a pocket full of shrimp.

we are catching those nasty little hard head saltwater catfish with the poisonous spines... fun to catch for an 8 year old. I unhook, toss back and re-bait. He is having the time of his life as this was his FIRST fishing trip.

BUMP! Something heavy rolls up on me from behind and knocks me in the right leg...hard. I almost fall. We are in 36" of water or less.

Then it hits me again from the other side....I could fel it rubbing against my soaked blue jeans....( thank God I did not have swim trunks and just waded out as is).

I knew it was shark 'tasting' the scent from my pocket full of shrimp.

I started for the beach. My nephew kept figiting around on my shoulders...

"Unka Greg, Unka Greg...I see some fish swimmin'...big fish. Hey, unka Greg, dey got some friends too"!

My wife and some others were on the beach screaming and bouncing around waving their arms....like I could do something with an 8 year old kid on my shoulders and still 75 yards from the beach.

I grabbed the shrimp that were still in my pocket and handed them to my nephew. I told him to give me the fishing pole and for him to throw the shrimp in the water behind us.

"Hey,Unka Greg, da big fish are eatin' all da shrimps!"

Too bad there was no You Tube back in the day.

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#11

Re: Modern Shark Attack Prevention

08/13/2013 9:12 PM

All kidding aside, shark finning is as horrible a waste as can be imagined.

When , NOT IF, they decimate these top ocean predators, something else will step up and take their place. We humans can screw up so much in this fragile world?

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