A thought that could run in the back of every surfers’ mind is the risk of a shark attack. Just last year (2015) professional surfer and 3 time World Surfing Champion, Mick Fanning, was shown, live on TV, fighting off a shark attack during a contest is South Africa.
In the following post, we cover types of shark repellents and if there is a reliable shark repellent for surfers or anyone involved in water activities.
There’s More Than One
Electrical shark repellent claim to work by emitting a small electrical current into the water, which interferes with special sensing organs sharks have in their snout called ampullae of Lorenzini. These organs detect small electrical currents given off by their prey. When overstimulated, the sensory organs spasm, forcing the shark to turn away.
Magnetic shark repellents were reportedly discovered by accident, when a scientist inadvertently dropped one into a tank of small nurse sharks and noticed they quickly darted away. It turns out magnets may have a similar effect on sharks as electrical fields, also overstimulating the ampullae of Lorenzini and causing an unpleasant sensation in the snout.
Chemical shark repellents consist primarily of copper acetate, which is safe for the swimmer but has been proven to be distasteful to sharks.
Spray shark repellents contains an extract of dead shark tissue packaged into an aerosol can. Research has shown that extracts of dead sharks can temporarily repel sharks but further research is required. Mythbusters, the TV show, did an episode testing this method, as well as others, and the sharks were temporarily repelled by the extracts of dead sharks.
Shark repellent surfboards and wetsuits are based on emulating the color of the banded sea snake, one the most, if not most, poisonous snake in the World. The theory being that sharks will avoid poisonous snakes.
What’s The Probability Of Being Attacked?
Your chances of being attacked by a shark are just one in 11.5 million, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. Globally more people died last year taking selfies than those who’ve been killed by a shark
On average, there are about 65 shark attacks worldwide each year; a handful are fatal. You are more likely to be killed by a dog, snake or in a car collision with a deer. You’re also 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning and three times more likely to drown at the beach than die from a shark attack, according to University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File.
In one year in the U.S., sharks injured just 13 people while nearly 200,000 were hurt in accidents involving ladders, toilets and chainsaws.
There’s Promising Results
None of the repellents listed previously have proven conclusively that they work and should not be counted on. Though one has shown promising results but further research is still required.
The repellent derived from dead sharks seems to carry a chemical messenger that triggers a flight reaction. More research is required on this repellent to determine its effectiveness on all shark species.
The researchers presented their work in May during a meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Norman, Okla. Films of their tests captured images of sharks splashing the surface as they turn to flee.
The repellent, though nontoxic, is apparently so disagreeable to sharks it can revive them from semi-consciousness. Some species slip into a hypnotic state if turned belly-up, and tests found the repellent brought captive sharks out of that trance.
Reduce Your Risk
- Always swim, dive or surf with other people.
- Avoid dirty or turbid water, which make it hard to see a shark approaching.
- Avoid going into the water at dusk, dawn or at night, as many sharks are more active during these times of the day.
- Avoid swimming or surfing around river mouths, especially after rain.
- Don’t swim with pets.Take off jewelry before entering the water. Jewelry reflects light in the same way fish scales do, and sharks can be attracted to the reflected light.
- Avoid dolphins and seabirds. They may not only attract sharks, but also often seek the same prey.
- Fishing boats and anglers from shore can attract sharks looking for an easy seafood meal, so refrain from swimming near them.
- Avoid splashing and other erratic movements signal distress and can alert sharks to your presence. Try to keep strokes and kicks smooth and even.
- Mouths of rivers, channels, deep drops and areas between sandbars tend to attract sharks. Skip swimming in these places, as well as far from shore.
- If you have a bleeding cut, an exposed wound or are a menstruating woman, do not swim in open water. Blood and human waste attract sharks.
- Sharks are creatures of habit. Do not swim in areas where a shark attack has recently occurred, since the same shark, or others, may still frequent the spot.
Based on the research conducted for this post, there is no proven, reliable shark repellent for surfers or anyone involved in water activities. The likelihood of being attacked by a shark is very small. Following the advice listed previously could reduce your risk of a shark attack.
It’s up to you to determine the risk versus reward.
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