100 million sharks, skates and rays are accidentally caught every year by the world’s commercial fisheries, threatening several pelagic species with extinction. This ‘bycatch’ hurts fishermen too, as more valuable target species, such as tuna and swordfish, are displaced from baited hooks. Sharks also damage fishing gear.
But now a solution may be on the horizon. Meet SharkGuard.
Developed by Fishtek Marine’s world-class team of engineers and marine ecologists, SharkGuard is an exciting new product that uses electric fields to deter sharks and other elasmobranchs from fishing hooks, while not interfering with target species. SharkGuard is a uniquely hard-wearing device, designed to be both affordable and practical for longline fishers.
Following successful prototype tests that achieved a 90% reduction in shark catch, we’re now ready to demonstrate SharkGuard’s efficacy in a real-world commercial fishing setting. In summer 2019, with funding from the European Commission’s Eurostars programme, we’ll be putting the device through its paces in the Mediterranean Sea, in collaboration with our French partners, the consultancy ISI-Fish and the fishing cooperative Sathoan. The trial results will be verified by leading marine biologists at the University of Exeter.
If all goes well, we’ll launch SharkGuard later this year, benefiting marine conservation and the fishing industry alike.
In the meantime follow us on Twitter to keep up to date on our Mediterranean trials!
HOW DOES SHARKGUARD WORK?
Sharks behave in a very similar way to target fish species like tuna. They feed on the same sort of prey, and generally occupy the same marine zones. But there is one striking difference…
Sharks and other elasmobranchs possess unique electrical receptors called Ampullae of Lorenzi in their snouts that help them detect prey and navigate. They are therefore acutely sensitive to strong electrical fields and will actively avoid electrical currents greater than 10V/m. SharkGuard devices, each powered by a single AA battery and fitted close to baited hooks, exploit this sensitivity by creating powerful, short-range, 3-D pulsed electric fields that overstimulate these electroreceptors turning sharks harmlessly away. Target species meanwhile, such as tuna and swordfish, that lack these receptors are unaffected.
The scientific principle of using powerful electric fields to deter sharks has been demonstrated in other contexts. Yet, never before has a device been available to the fishing industry which not only produces an electric pulse of sufficient magnitude to deter sharks but is small and cheap enough to buy and fit.