Small Electric Device Fitted Near Hooks Deters Sharks from Striking

Researchers report electrical pulses from a tiny “SharkGuard” unit drastically reduces the number of sharks and rays caught.

SharkGuard protects baits from sharks
SharkGuard is designed to thwart unwanted shark catches by emitting electric impulses. Courtesy SharkGuard

Accidental catches of deep-water sharks is believed to be the cause of overfishing for some species of the toothy predators. So, scientists got to work devising a device that would turn off sharks before they can devour baited hooks.

That’s the concept of a small electronic unit that fits to fishing line near a hook that sends out light electrical charges that turns off sharks, yet doesn’t affect targeted fish species.

According to a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) the device called “SharkGuard” is battery powered and emits electrical pulses that sharks detect and deters them from baited hooks.

The BBC report states that university researchers learned that baited hooks fitted with “SharkGuard” units reduced accidental catching of some shark species by over 90 percent.

“When ‘SharkGuard’ is used, sharks do not take the bait and do not get caught on the hooks,” says Pete Kibel, co-founder and director of Fishtek Marine, which makes the device.

“There is an urgent need to reduce (shark) bycatch, which not only kills millions of sharks and rays each year but also costs fishers time and money,” said Dr Phil Doherty of the University of Exeter in Cornwall, U.K. “Our study suggests ‘SharkGuard’ is remarkably effective at keeping blue sharks and pelagic stingrays off fishing hooks.”

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Scientists say that worldwide shark numbers have dropped by over 70 percent in the last 50 years from overfishing. That’s concerning, say researchers, because sharks are an important part of marine ecosystems as the top food chain predators keeping oceans balanced.

But SharkGuard may be a “global game-changer” for sharks, according to Prof. Brendan Godley, leader of the Exeter Marine research group.

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