Bather protection is a term that we use to describe initiative, programs, inventions designed to protect humans from the unwanted attention of sharks. For people like us, who love both sharks and humans, we divide all bather protection initiatives into two broad categories – invasive and non-invasive. Invasive techniques are based upon killing or removing sharks from the marine ecosystem. Whilst non-invasive approaches are designed to protect humans, but having minimal ecological impact on sharks, and definitely not culling them.
WE DO NOT ENDORSE ANY INNOVATIONS OR PRODUCTS FEATURED ON THIS PAGE. WHEN CHOOSING A SHARK PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY, ENSURE IT HAS BEEN TESTED SCIENTIFICALLY AND ENDORSED ON THOSE VERIFIED RESULTS
Non-invasive bather protection initiatives have mushroomed in recent years as humans have realized the devastating consequences of destroying shark populations on the marine ecosystems. These techniques are varied, imaginative and ultimately non-invasive. They are designed to keep humans safe, but to cause no impact to the health of individual or populations of sharks.
South Africa’s Cape Town is home to a population of sexually mature, and near mature great white sharks. Since the early 2000’s a spate of attack caused widespread panic in the community. As a response local businessmen and the City of Cape Town developed a world renowned program – the shark spotters. Training unemployed locals to work as shark spotters – perched on top of mountains, Cape Town has reduced shark attacks significantly. The spotters work in shifts and inform water users of the pressence of great whites by alarms, specific flags and via life guards.
Learn more about the shark spotter program: Visit website
Sharkbanz are an easy way to add peace of mind to the everyday ocean swim, surf, or snorkel, but make no mistake: the science is real. They enlisted the services of the renowned shark experts at SharkDefense Technologies. This group of scientists founded the organization 15 years ago, and created breakthroughs in a variety of shark deterrent technologies through their research and development. Sharkbanz use special patented magnetic technology to deter sharks from attacking people. As the shark approaches a person wearing Sharkbanz, magnetic waves coming from the band disrupt its electro-receptors and it quickly turns away.
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The University of Western Australia’s Ocean Institute in partnership with entrepreneurs Hamish Jolly and Craig Anderson created the world’s first anti-shark wetsuit. Jolly and Anderson’s company Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS) produced a range of suits to protect people from underwater predators without causing harm to the sharks. The ‘Elude’ suit protects for divers and snorkelers with a blue and white pattern that uses sharks’ light perception and color blindness against them. Similarly, the ‘Divert’ suit intended for surfers is a black and white pattern that mimics an unpalatable food source based on sharks’ perception of danger in the water. This is all possible due to recent research and discoveries about shark eyesight.
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The success of the ‘SharkShield’ as a personal safety device motivated Natal Sharks Board to upscale the technology to protect entire beaches. Electrical currents can overstimulate a sharks Ampulle of Lorinzini (electro-reception sense) and thus creating invisible barrier. The NSB has no built its first prototype of an electric barrier that can be used to keep sharks away from bathers without injuring the sharks or other wildlife. In 2016, the NSB tested their prototype extensively on great white sharks in Mossel bay. The results showed an electric barrier is a viable shark deterrent.
Learn more about the electronic barrier program: Visit website
Over the past 20 years, electronic repellants have been developed and produced for personal use. The best known model is the Sharkshield.
Sharks have small short-range electrical receptors in their snouts used for feeding. Shark Shield’s unique three-dimensional electrical waveform instantly turns sharks away by causing unbearable spasms in these sensitive receptors. Shark Shield’s products have been consistently proven to effectively turn sharks away by the world’s leading scientific experts on sharks. Independent research and testing by universities has resulted in a number of peer reviewed science journals confirming the technologies effectiveness.
Learn more about the bather protection net program: Visit website
Some ‘shark nets’ are non-evasive. These are typically called exclusion nets. Exclusion nets consist of a very fine mesh that acts as a physical barrier to sharks as opposed to a gill nets that will entangle a shark. Exclusion nets have, however, proven very high maintenance due to biofouling (marine growth) and getting damaged by waves and tidal flux. Exclusion nets have been used successfully in low energy environments (such a protected bays) but have limited application due to potential damage from wave action.
Learn more about exclusions net protect: Visit website
Invasive based bather protection is designed to remove sharks from the marine ecosystem. By reducing the number of sharks, it is premised that the likelihood of a human been involved in a shark bite incident is reduced. Invasive techniques can, however, have detrimental impacts on the marine ecosystem by removal of top predators and other species.
In response to widespread criticism about the non-dangerous bi-catch taken in the KZN shark nets, the natal sharks board introduced baited shark drum lines. The belief was that a series of large baited hooks would target and capture only large, potentially dangerous, sharks. The hooks would not capture bi-catch species such as turtles and dolphins. Critics claim the pressence of large chunks of bait in the vicinity of swimmers may in fact attract sharks to bathing beaches.
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Bather protection nets
South Africa’s kwaZulu Natal Coast has been protected by bather protection nets since the 1950’s. There is a common misconception that these nets represent a barrier between sharks and humans. In reality, the nets are gill fishing nets designed to lower local shark populations by culling the number of sharks. Despite efforts to reduce shark captures (by releasing sharks found captured yet alive), the KZN shark nets kill over 1400 sharks per year and numerous other marine species.
Learn more about the bather protection net program: Visit website
Western Australia underwent a spate of shark attacks since 2010. In response, the government contracted fishermen to conduct a targeted shark cull. Over a period of six months, contracted fishermen longline for large sharks. Any great white shark, tiger shark or bull shark over 3m in length we killed, taken into deeper water and the carcass deposited. This shark attack mitigation technique received wide poplar criticism and mass public protests were carried throughout Australia.
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