Watch: Eco-friendly shark barr

Photo: SharkSafeBarrier

Watch: Eco-friendly shark barrier invented in SA [video]

These eco-friendly barriers were conceptualized in 2012 by merging large ceramic magnets and the visual appearance of a thick forest of kelp.

Watch: Eco-friendly shark barr

Photo: SharkSafeBarrier

A new eco-friendly shark barrier system has been invented by a team of South African scientists and conservationists.

An eco-friendly shark barrier

Getaway Magazine reports that these new barriers can go a long way in protecting sharks and humans from each other, and is a viable alternative to nets which can cause more harm than good.

It is said that following a shark attack, local governments often rapidly respond by implementing shark culls. These culls have been demonstrated to have substantial localized and adverse effects on a variety of marine organisms.

Therefore, a new product called the SharkSafe Barrier was made in order to bio-mimic the visual effects of a kelp forest, which, combined with a series of permanent magnetic stimuli, form a barrier that dissuades sharks from passing through. This product can ultimately be the first 100% effective eco-friendly technology to protect humans from sharks without harming marine life.

“The addition of strong magnetic fields adds an extra safety measure since large magnets have proven to be strong deterrents for shark species. These magnets don’t need a power source – they are like fridge magnets, but on steroids. We have one per metre to create a magnetic field. It is shark-specific. It has no effect on other animals – in fact, it creates an artificial reef that increases the local biomass,’ Dr Sara Andreotti, a marine biologist in the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University told The Daily Maverick.

The team behind the barrier, deployed prototypes in South Africa and the Bahamas, attracted the sharks with chum, to motivate them to go through it and observed that none of them (84 white sharks and 41 bull sharks) swam through the barrier.

“By installing the barrier around a beach, beachgoers will be protected and the marine life will not be harmed.  We also have proof that the barrier can effectively keep sharks away from a food source. This was the last step of the scientific tests to prove that the barrier can effectively protect a swimming area, by keep sharks separated from people.”

Can it be implemented?

SharkSafe Barriers still face many challenges before it can be successfully implemented in South Africa.

According to Andreotti, a legal framework would be needed. She added that the government in general hates to change its ways because they have been doing something in a specific way for so long. Unless there is enough public pressure and change becomes the easier thing to do.

“The [current] shark nets do not protect surfers, it just kills the animals. Before a cost estimate can be given, we have to survey the seabed. Each place is vastly different. I don’t want to raise expectations and then the price is different”, she said.

The team has adopted a ‘bottom-up’ approach, meaning they urge the public to show their support until eventually the government and other authorities will act and mobilise the practical resources needed to make this a reality in the country.

“This year we successfully completed the very first oversea installation in Reunion Island in January…we cannot wait to stop shark-culling for good,” the team said. “It is our hope that when enough people will stand with us and support the use of the SSB to protect surfers without harming the marine environment, we will get a step closer to really make this happen.”