Shark Board set to test shark repellent cable

Shark. Stock image.

THE KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board this week said they had devised a new plan to keep sharks at bay. They are testing a 100 metre electronic shark repellent cable that they say will first be used in Cape Town where they will be monitoring its effects on White Sharks from October to May next year.

Scientists are hoping that the data collected during the testing period will help them to develop an environmentally friendly barrier system that will protect bathers from the horrifying shark attacks without killing or harming the animals.

According to Paul Von Blerk, the project specialist, there are currently only two shark attack prevention measures that can be implemented; shark nets and drum lines, but these barrier systems he said function by physically capturing the sharks. “The sharks get entangled in these barriers and they are taken out of their natural habitat. Boats are sent out on a regular basis to free them. The sharks are often in distresses and some die while caught in the barrier. That is why we are looking for an alternative method,” said Von Blerk.

The cable functions by emitting a low frequency electronic signal, which has been proven to repel White Sharks. Von Blerk explained that the pulse has the same effect that a flame would have on humans. “From a distance we can sense the warmth it emits, but the closer we get the more discomfort we experience. Once the discomfort gets too much we can move away from the flame, and the idea is essentially the same,” he said.

Although shark attacks have rapidly decreased in recent years, some isolated incidences still occur. The most recent fatal attack occurred in Port St John’s in the Eastern cape, where a 72-year-old Austrian tourist was savaged while swimming at the notorious Second Beach.

In 1952 the first shark attack prevention barrier was installed in Durban, said Geremy Cliff, head of research. “Since then there has been two reported shark attacks and none of which were fatal. Before that, between 1942 and 1951, there were 21 cases of shark attacks and seven of those were fatal,” he said.

Dr Jonathan Rosenthal, stressed that the cable was not dangerous to humans, and will not impact bathers and beachgoers from accessing and using the beach.

Mariclair Smit

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