A group of high qualified researchers at The University of Western Australia welcomed today the State Government announcement of $6.85m over four years for shark mitigation education and research.
Associate Professor Nathan Hart and WA Premier’s Fellow and Winthrop Professor Shaun Collin, who heads the Neuroecology Group at UWA, are world accepted leaders in shark sensory biology and they are currently working on developingÂ shark attack deterrent costume, a patent of which belongs to Autralian businessmenÂ Shark Attack Mitigation Systems.
Today’s funding announcement is believed extend this research to explore new types of sensory deterrents and to unite other researchers from all over the world.
The designers say they use numerous modern scientific insights into sharks’ perceptions of light and colour blindness to create a perfect means of camouflage for divers or snorkelers in the water.
“If we can predict how sharks will see certain objects in the water, we can begin to predict how they will react under certain circumstances and we can even begin to manipulate their behaviour,” Associate Professor Hart said.
Professor Collin welcomed the WA Government’s strong commitment to innovative ocean research.
“We hope the State Government will continue to support research to help respond to the challenges we face while working to protect and develop the world’s oceans for the benefit of humanity,” he said.
The project received an impetus after a series ofÂ shark attacks in Western Australia. Sharks are common in Australian waters but fatal attacks are quite rare – on average, one person is killed by a shark in a year.
However, five people were killed in the year to July 2012.
A few months ago the research team conducted several tests of the new wetsuit designs off the northern WA coast. And it was determined that in one encounter a tiger shark circled a dummy covered in the “cryptic” design for six minutes before deciding to attack a dummy covered in traditional black neoprene.
“We have had a handful of engagements like that. We need to do more. All the early evidence is that it’s working,” one of the researchers said, adding that testing would go on for many years and they could not say the wetsuits provided fail-safe protection.
Mr Anderson told the local media that there was “substantial” demand across the world for technologies to repel sharks.
“Everyone’s looking for a solution, everyone’s nervous about going in the water around the world now,” he added.
However, Ali Hood, conservation director for the Shark Trust in the UK, couldn’t agree more, telling BBC: “To suggest that ‘Everyone’s nervous of entering the water’ is rather strong.”
The specialist went on, adding that there had been a growth in the water sports market and during a whole year more and more people enter water, but there was no corresponding increase in shark encounters or fatalities.
She also revealed the Shark Trust welcomed all progress with regards to the development of non-fatal shark repellents or exclusion devices.
But, she added: “Sadly, a great number of the fatalities attributed to sharks occur in avoidable circumstances: swimmers entering the water where shark warnings have been given; surfing at dawn or dusk on reefs known to be frequented by sharks; and spear fishermen carrying their catch close to their bodies.”