SA-made eco-friendly barrier keeps humans and sharks apart in the Bahamas

Marine life is known to hide in kelp forests to avoid predatory sharks.
Marine life is known to hide in kelp forests to avoid predatory sharks.
Image: SharkSafe Barrier/Instagram

Eco-friendly technology developed by marine biologists at Stellenbosch University (SU) has been deployed at a private island in the Bahamas to keep humans and sharks apart. 

The shark-repellent barrier has been tested since 2012 along the South African coastline and its first commercial installation is being hailed as a breakthrough.

The 30m-long barrier was deployed at the Berry Islands in August. Shark tourism contributes about $100m (R1.8bn) annually to the economy of the Bahamas.

“We now have the technology to allow the rightful inhabitants of the oceans to survive and thrive, and for sea-loving humans to enjoy their time in the water safely,” said Dr Sara Andreotti, a marine biologist at SU and co-founder of SharkSafe Barrier™. 

It is regarded as the only eco-friendly alternative to nets, which result in the deaths of sharks and other marine life. 

SU said the idea behind the concept was a combination of practical experience with sharks and marine biologists' understanding of their behaviour. Fish and seals, for example, are known to hide in kelp forests from predatory sharks. 

The barrier mimics a natural kelp forest, using rows of plastic pipes anchored to the seabed. A strong magnetic field is created by inserting magnets into the kelp-like pipes. 

Sharks are sensitive to strong, permanent magnetic fields due to sensitive electromagnetic receptors at the tip of their heads. 




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