Shark attacks might be absurdly rare, but a few recent attacks have prompted Australia to begin a shark-killing program, a program which has attracted no end of criticism -- and now, a possible alternative emerges. Curtin University, in western Australia, just secured a grant to try to figure out a way to reduce shark attacks without harming sharks or damaging the ocean ecosystem.
Researchers are using sound to mask human actions in the sea. Sight is not the primary sense for sharks; instead, they use sound and smell, and the researchers at Curtin believe that sound is the most-used sense for long-distance tracking of potential prey.
The team will record the noise of typical human activity at Perth beaches where shark encounters have occurred previously. The researchers will then determine the exact sound cue of human activities that can be detected by sharks and design and compare two kinds of artificial signals -- one that mimics a typical beach environment and one that masks the sound cue detected by sharks.
The researchers believe that this technique could be the least invasive method to deter sharks from attacking, and will have minimal environmental effects. Sharks are much more at risk than previously believed -- a study yesterday from IUCN found that one in four species is vulnerable to extinction -- and without the larger sharks, the entire ocean ecosystem is thrown off-balance.