An increase in the number of fatal shark attacks in recent years has seen renewed interest in technologies that deter sharks from interacting too closely with humans. A/Prof. Nathan Hart from the Department of Biological Sciences has been studying the senses of sharks to better understand how they perceive their surroundings and, based on his findings, has begun to develop improved shark deterrents.
Hart’s team have investigated the effects of bright flashing lights, loud underwater sounds—including the calls of killer whales—and bubble curtains on the behaviour of a range of shark species, including great white and tiger sharks. He has also worked with an Australian company (Shark Mitigation Systems; SMS) to develop camouflaged wetsuits for divers using patented designs based on his research on the shark visual system.
Most sharks, like most marine mammals, are completely colour blind and see the world in shades of grey. This important finding reveals much about the use of the visual sense by sharks and also simplifies the development of visual camouflage. Recently, Hart and colleagues from the University of Western Australia, Flinders University, Oceans Research (South Africa), Taronga Zoo, the NSW Department of Fisheries and SMS received funding through the ARC Linkage scheme to take this research further, including in the development of visual deterrents suitable for deployment on surfboards.
Surfers are at the greatest risk of shark attack and by developing novel technologies to deter sharks. Hart is hopeful his team can save lives.