Assisted by ARC Linkage Projects scheme funding, Macquarie University researchers, led by Associate Professor Nathan Hart, are developing a radical shark-deterrent surfboard.
They have perfected a system of light-emitting diode (LED) lights to put on the bottom of a surfboard that works in an entirely different way to currently available electronic shark repellents. The pattern made by the lights breaks up the tell-tale silhouette of a surfer that might be attractive to white sharks.
The project was based on the recent discovery that white sharks do not attack certain counter-illuminated (light emitting) seal-shaped decoys, and used new information about shark vision to understand why this ‘camouflage’ is so successful.
The team is continuing to complete testing of thevarious configurations in different light conditions, and working to commercialise the technology. It is possible the technology could be extended beyond surfboards for use on other watercraft.
Associate Professor Hart is working with industry partner Smart Marine Systems (SMS), as well as Taronga Zoo, the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Flinders University, The University of Western Australia and Oceans Research in South Africa. This builds on earlier work with partner SMS to develop camouflage wetsuits—using patented designs based on Associate Professor Hart’s research on the shark visual system—that have now been commercialised.
|Extensive field tests of the LED system in waters with white sharks were found to be highly effective in preventing the sharks from attacking. When the light system was attached, the research found that sharks didn’t attack; when it was not attached, they didn’t hesitate.|
Image: White shark (Carcharodon carcharias) attacking a control seal-shaped decoy without the new counter-illumination technology attached. Image credit: Associate Professor Nathan Hart, Macquarie University.