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Anna Karamazina

26.11.2022 15:00

This Technology Shocks Sharks to Save Them

Artificial fishing kills millions of sharks every time. The SharkGuard attaches to grope hooks and sends out an electrical palpitation that repels the creatures to keep them from taking the bait.

Tuna sashimi may be delicious but every bite comes with a high body count. Millions of sharks are killed each time when they ’re inadvertently caught by artificial fishing vessels. Now a new technology has shown promising results in sprucely reducing the bloodbath of a top bloodsucker key to keeping ocean ecosystems healthy.

Called a SharkGuard, the spherical device is attached to a baited fishing hook and emits a three- dimensional electric field that can be tasted by sharks and shafts. The electrical palpitation overstimulates the beast’s electroreceptors that it uses to detect prey, and like fingernails on a chalkboard, repels the wolf down from the hook.

In July and August 2021, two longline vessels fumbling for bluefin tuna off the south seacoast of France tested SharkGuard on hundreds of baited hooks. During the trials, “bycatch” of blue sharks per 1,000 hooks fell 91.3% while the snaring of stingrays fell 71.3%, according to a peer-reviewed paper. The study was published last week in the journal Current Biology by scientists from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and Fishtek Marine, the UK company that developed SharkGuard.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed annually by marketable fisheries, and wolf populations have fallen 71 since 1970, according to scientists.

“I see this as being potentially a game-changer,” said Rachel Graham, a marine scientist and a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Wolf Specialist Group, which determines the conservation status of wolf species. “The use of these instruments will be veritably helpful for companies to be suitable to label their tuna or their other target species as being ‘wolf safe,’ like they do with dolphin-safe tuna.”

Graham, the author and superintendent director of ocean-concentrated nonprofit MarAlliance, was speaking from Panama, where she was attending a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The transnational convention association suggested on Friday to regulate the global trade in 60 species of sharks, including blue sharks. That requires CITES 183 member nations and the European Union to not issue permits for import of defended sharks unless similar trade is sustainable and doesn't hamper the species survival. The move comes amid a growing demand for wolf meat.

Robert Enever, head of wisdom at Fishtek and aco-author of the paper, said retail companies that have environmental, social and commercial governance reporting conditions might declare, “We are going to bear that when we buy tuna, you don’t kill sharks,” Never said. “You have this technology that can reduce the millions of sharks destroyed every time.”

Sara Mirabilio, a fisheries specialist at North Carolina Sea Grant, tested a prototype of an analogous device developed by Australian company Ocean Guardian during a 15-day trial in 2021. Catch of nine wolf species fell further than 50, she said.

“I absolutely believe we can harness this electro- sensitive capability of sharks and use it as an interference,” said Mirabilio, who'll be conducting further trials of the device over the coming two times. “Notoriety is going to come up with a retail-ready device soon. It ’ll just be a matter of fishers' amenability to use it.”

The SharkGuard capsule contains a battery- powered capacitor that generates an electric field. The current replication of the device has its limitations and it isn't yet commercially available. The battery must be changed after 65 hours, which would not be doable for vessels that emplace thousands of hooks on fishing lines that can stretch for long hauls.

A result, however, is under development. Fishtek has attained backing from Schmidt Marine Technology mates to produce an induction charging system that would be erected into the lockers that store longline hooks. When the hooks are reeled in, said Enever, they would dock in a charging mug and be completely powered for the coming deployment.

“Technologies like SharkGuard can be transformational,” said Jake Hanft, program director for Schmidt Marine Technology mates, a San Francisco grounded association that issues subventions for the development of ocean technologies and is part of the Schmidt Family Foundation established by Wendy and Eric Schmidt, the former Google principal administrative officer.

“It's an elegant and productive way to keep sharks and shafts off longlines without dismembering the fishing of target catch, reducing bycatch by incredibly emotional rates,” he said.

SharkGuard is one of several technologies under development to reduce incidental payoff of sharks. In January, scientists published a study that set up attaching LED lights to huge fishing nets off the seacoast of Mexico slashed by bycatch of sharks and shafts 95%.

Fishtek estimates a SharkGuard induction charging system for 2,000 hooks would bring about $20,000 and last three to five times. To convert marketable lines to borrow SharkGuard, however, Fishtek will have to demonstrate the technology does n’t reduce catch of tuna and other seafood.

Catch of bluefin tuna during the trials in France was inopportunely low but it couldn't be determined if SharkGuard was a factor, according to the paper. Enever noted that a Fishtek device of an analogous size has been stationed by longline fisheries on hundreds of thousands of hooks to discourage payoff of seabirds without an impact on catch.

Graham said biases like SharkGuard are substantially likely to be stationed on longline vessels regulated by indigenous fisheries operation organizations. However, SharkGuard can absolutely help them, she said, “If they want to be sustainable.”

“But we're seeing a really big swell in demand for wolf meat across multiple countries around the globe,” she added. “So if people are just adding fishing trouble across the board, they may not want to reduce their catch of sharks. And I suppose that is going to be one of the crucial challenges to espousing this type of technology.”

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