'Dumped chilli sauce' tech could reduce shark bites by 60 per cent, study finds

Emma Pedler
Swellnet Dispatch

A University of Flinders study has found shark bites could be reduced by about 60 per cent if effective personal electronic deterrents are properly used.

The research, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, suggests as many as 1,063 Australians could be spared from attacks over the next 50 years if they use the right technology.

Lead author Corey Bradshaw and co-author, associate professor Charlie Huveneers, said the figures were based on previous studies carried out in South Australia's Neptune Islands.

"Charlie and his group took mock surfboards and put these different bits of equipment on them, and then a bit of bait," Dr Bradshaw said. 

"[The team] tested which deterrents actually seemed to reduce the incidence of the shark taking a bite of the bait and it turns out only one of the electronic deterrents worked and all the other ones failed to have any effect."

How do deterrents work?

Dr Bradshaw said sharks used electro perception when going in to bite prey.

"They have a very advanced system for detecting electric fields," he said.

"This is why electronic deterrents work because they disrupt that electrical sensory perception.

"Imagine if you're going to put a spoonful of food in your mouth and you're expecting it to be quite mild and someone has dumped a bunch of chilli sauce on it that you weren't expecting.

"You get a whiff of it and go, 'I'm not going to put that in my mouth' — but you were intending to take that mouthful anyway.

"That's how I look at electronic deterrents."

Electronic deterrents were tested at the Neptune Islands in South Australia (Photo: Rodney Fox)

'I still prefer a cage'

Dr Huveneers said while studies had demonstrated that electronic deterrents can reduce the probability of shark bites, device efficacy varied.

"Even between products of the same manufacturer," he said.

Dr Bradshaw said electronic deterrents needed to be set to the appropriate frequencies, that they had be worn properly did protect the sensitive areas like the head and torso.

"If you dig under the surface, you find that most of them aren't tested properly, you have to really look at the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of each design and wear them properly, because if they're not put on properly or they're not in the right format then they just won't work," he said.

Dr Bradshaw said there was no guarantee a shark would not bite with the right deterrent.

"I still prefer a cage between me and a white pointer," he said.

"It's just reducing the probability that you will be targeted and bitten."

//Emma Pedler and Evelyn Leckie
© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

Comments

Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams Sunday, 4 Apr 2021 at 5:26pm

Could you run a cable the length of a busy east coast beach which is submerged either in a parallel or horizontal sequence out past the surf line. How much current would deflect larger sharks from entering the bay and could it be powered by wind, solar or tidal energy (or mains)? Could it be activated by sharks that are tagged to reduce running the consumption cycle continuously and perhaps the prevent then sharks from becoming neutral to constant pulses? One for the researches and electrical engineers.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Sunday, 4 Apr 2021 at 6:20pm

"1063 Australians could be spared from attacks over the next 50 years.." ...the site also says the range is 185 to 2118. Stuffs my mind where they get these figures ?
When I read the headline I thought I'd found another use for my bumper harvest of Carolina Reapers. bummer

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Sunday, 4 Apr 2021 at 6:47pm

yeah , very misleading headline.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Sunday, 4 Apr 2021 at 7:18pm

"Imagine if you're going to put a spoonful of food in your mouth and you're expecting it to be quite mild and someone has dumped a bunch of chilli sauce on it that you weren't expecting."

welcome to my world, this happens to me every night, then my wife always swears she only put one chilli in the meal, i virtually have to beg her not to put chilli's in everything.

mundies's picture
mundies's picture
mundies Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 7:33pm

Ha nice one ID

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 7:56pm

Mine too ID, she swears she only put in one but i've watched her and it's like five and when I pulled her up about it, she said only one and I can't count.....

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Tuesday, 6 Apr 2021 at 6:40pm

I get the feeling your wife is a bit of a practical joker Indo.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Sunday, 4 Apr 2021 at 8:23pm

"Only one of the electronic deterrents had an effect on reducing the probability of a sharkbite"? I'm not sure if this is entirely true. One is superior & has been proven in many studies over 15 years to deter GWS in any state of agitation from biting but unfortunately the optimum configuration & spacing of electrodes as is used in Towed Seal Decoy trials is impractical for surfing.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Sunday, 4 Apr 2021 at 8:35pm

*** when they say "deter", they don't necessarily mean " prevent".

SI's picture
SI's picture
SI Tuesday, 6 Apr 2021 at 10:07pm

Yeah, I also wonder about how it will work in the lineup. I wondered this a bit in SA when surfing known white pointer hot spots. Sometimes you’d get a clown in the water with an electrical cable or device to deter sharks. But the technology does both attract and repel!!! Only once the shark is really close to the device does it cause repelling. So it brings in the sharks but doesn’t repel them from the 90% or more poor surfers who are not wearing the device. So I’m not that keen on surfing with these people and their shark devices. I mean, if it was provable that they attract in big sharks, and someone used one which bought in a big shark that ate your kid in front of you, I mean, your not gonna be too stoked with the dude that has “attracted” in that shark- or the company that sold him the attracting device. ! If there is good evidence that the technology works to attract, then maybe you could say the surfer wearing the device attracted in the shark which ate the kid. If so, then maybe you could say that surfer knowingly attracted the shark to come in and caused it to eat another person! Just saying...it does add up when you think about it. Where does responsibility start and where does it end...? I mean, if I took a little friend out to surf with me at a remote spot where there are lots of white pointers - and I took that “friend” so I could reduce my odds at being eaten - and then to my HORROR I saw a shark eat my friend... would I bear any responsibility? Might I feel a bit responsible? Why? It’s just a little hypothetical...for some people these are real practical questions...

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Wednesday, 7 Apr 2021 at 9:07am

So,attract 100% of the time, but deter about 60% of the time, therefore 40% of those using these devices,or their friends, will be attacked? Jeez Emma you've opened a can of worms here

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Sunday, 4 Apr 2021 at 9:23pm

ahh I get it ...not
"We therefore stochastically resampled the back-transformed bites person−1 year−1 projections and multiplied these by a beta-resampled (assuming 5% standard deviation) reduction probability centred on 0.60, multiplying this product by incrementing proportions of people wearing the devices (from 0.1 to 0.9). This provides a three-dimensional matrix of the reduced number of people expected to be bitten over time (from 2020 to 2066) and by proportion wearing the device. Subtracting this matrix from the equivalent matrix without the reduction gives the matrix expressing the number of people avoiding being bitten by sharks per year to 2066."... their words

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 12:50pm

still more simple than the mathematics of options trading

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Sunday, 4 Apr 2021 at 11:52pm

Sorry couldn't help myself ..

aussieguy's picture
aussieguy's picture
aussieguy Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 10:03am

Oh that's gold tubes. Had a good laugh over that one.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 10:26am

Excellent

vicbloke's picture
vicbloke's picture
vicbloke Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 9:12am

Another one for the researches and electrical engineers. Could they in corporate an electronic deterrent into a leggie? The leggie is always in the water and from what I have read a shark will generally attack from behind which is where the leggie is normally loacted.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 9:31am

Modom did a collab with sharkbanz on a legrope ,magnet was at back of ankle strap but they have discontinued them by the looks of it.Wasnt electrical but magnetic.

Supafreak's picture
Supafreak's picture
Supafreak Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 11:23am

That was brilliant tubeshooter , best laugh this weekend

Lyle Reed's picture
Lyle Reed's picture
Lyle Reed Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 11:29am

Rob Williams > Shark shield freedom plus for your board - a great detterent.
In the future i believe they will drill into the rock below the sand and put in eyelets, run a cable off a headland where its solar powered most likely and keep sharks from entering past that point!
Thats great for our kids and the future if im right.

scrotina's picture
scrotina's picture
scrotina Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 11:45am

so which one is the one that actually works?

Lyle Reed's picture
Lyle Reed's picture
Lyle Reed Tuesday, 6 Apr 2021 at 10:33am

Scrotina > Freedom plus surf is the only one scientifically proven to turn sharks away! Google it and then go on youtube there are heaps of videos.

bjfitzhenry's picture
bjfitzhenry's picture
bjfitzhenry Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 12:29pm

There is empirical evidence that the smell of an Orca is a deterrent. By the way associate professor Charlie Huveneers is largely funded by grants authorized by his mates in Primary Industries NSW and of course by inventors wanting their devices tested for market. These guys are greenies through and through, which is great, but often the focus seems to be protecting sharks from humans.

Andrew P's picture
Andrew P's picture
Andrew P Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 12:54pm

Kilgore was wrong - Charlie Does Surf!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 1:00pm

"... took mock surfboards and put these different bits of equipment on them, and then a bit of bait,"

This brings up an old chestnut we had in a thread where Ron & Valerie started the whole diving/familiarity with humans thing. The question is can fish be Pavlov's dogs?

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 1:19pm

I agree.

The evidence seems to indicate that the eastern and western populations of white sharks move around significantly with a wide (and not understood) range of duration for residency at different locations. So at some stage they're going to leave the Neptunes and move elsewhere, likely in proximity to surf breaks as they either travel or take up a new residency.

Given that whites are reportedly naturally curious toward anything unfamiliar and/or tasty there doesn't seem to be any kind of good reason to give them bait in any form which could induce or promote association. It seems quite ignorant or cavalier, or both. Surely another shape for the bait would still test the efficacy of the device.

Are the authors able to comment?

And while I'm at it, I find a general article like this pretty frustrating. If there are brands and/or configurations of devices that work and others simply don't, why on earth can't those be published? If only one works, I'd have thought that is the one people will buy and the others are a waste of time and money. I understand the ABC doing that but not Swellnet.

Lyle Reed's picture
Lyle Reed's picture
Lyle Reed Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 1:07pm

Great work there doing with us and our kids in mind. Thumbs up from me.

FrazP's picture
FrazP's picture
FrazP Monday, 5 Apr 2021 at 2:57pm

Ocean Guardian/shark shield have the study on their site.

Think rpela might also, although if I recall rpela had a few tech issues on the day.

I understand they took measures to avoid the human/surfer association where sharks might learn habit.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Tuesday, 6 Apr 2021 at 3:11pm

Meanwhile all quiet on the strobelight trials that claimed an unthinkable 100% no-bite factor. Maybe they were 100,000 watts,I dunno

groundswell's picture
groundswell's picture
groundswell Tuesday, 6 Apr 2021 at 6:55pm

Im guessing those SharkBanz were one of the devices that didnt work...what a scam company

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Wednesday, 7 Apr 2021 at 8:31am

60% of the time it works every time.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKiSPUc2Jck

Wong's picture
Wong's picture
Wong Wednesday, 7 Apr 2021 at 1:38pm

Who fuckin cares, you're not going to get bitten by a fish.

walter-r-white's picture
walter-r-white's picture
walter-r-white Wednesday, 7 Apr 2021 at 3:01pm

So much bait in this article, especially the headline!

theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep's picture
theblacksheep Wednesday, 7 Apr 2021 at 4:27pm

So AFTER you taste the chilli sauce? Meaning you gotta survive the taste test. Bad analogy. GW attacks have always been a taste test you gotta survive.... like your Mrs cooking you boys referred to

SurferSam's picture
SurferSam's picture
SurferSam Friday, 9 Apr 2021 at 11:44am

Beachgrit headline

ndjen's picture
ndjen's picture
ndjen Monday, 19 Apr 2021 at 7:05pm

There has been past research on playing Orca sounds underwater to deter GWS out of an area
.
Don't know the state of play but even if it was 10% effective it would be worth the
council plonking one in on a buoy most mornings. It would be cheap even if not wholly effective and harmless to the environment.

Although you might find a new penguin or seal colony nearby....