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Researcher Uses PVC Pipe to Repel Sharks

Jul 2014

Dr. Craig O’Connell, a marine scientist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has devised a noninvasive system that may protect beachgoers from shark attacks.  In 2010, O’Connell began studying more environmentally sustainable ways to separate sharks from beachgoers.  One of the most common methods employed today involves constructing nets offshore to prevent sharks from swimming near the shoreline and amongst swimmers.  Unfortunately, this system presents its own environmental concerns as sharks, sea turtles, fish, dolphins and other marine life often become entangled in the nets.

In studying the behavior of seals, O’Connell noticed they often evaded predators by hiding in thickets of kelp.  That’s when he and fellow researchers came up with the idea of creating an artificial kelp forest made of PVC pipes anchored to the sea floor.  The pipes are designed with joints that allow them to sway with the currents, emulating a real kelp forest.  Understanding that sharks can be sensitive to magnetic fields, the researches attached magnets to the pipes as an added deterrent.

O’Connell has partnered with researchers in South Africa where they built an artificial kelp forest of magnetized PVC pipe.  Of the more than 60 sharks observed in the experiment so far, none swam through the barrier even when tempted with fish chum.  O’Connell plans to continue his research in South Africa and is currently seeking a partner to construct a larger PVC barrier near a popular beach.

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