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Shark nets entangle thousands of turtles and marine mammals every year.

Shark nets entangle thousands of turtles and marine mammals every year. What we learn from Stellenbosch University’s “Shark Safe Barrier” may help to resolve our own issues with sharks as well.

The purpose of the proposed project is to complete the last year of scientific field research on the Sharksafe Barrier: a technology developed by an international team of scientists and shark experts to prevent negative interactions between sharks and humans, halting the detrimental use of shark nets and baited drum lines. The field tests aims to explore the exclusion capability of the Sharksafe barrier for the second year in a row, to test whether white sharks become habituated to the barrier. Furthermore the team will refine the overall physical design for various sea conditions for the large scale deployment. The short term outcome expected is that the barrier retains its 100% success rate in preventing sharks from entering the exclusion zone and that the team determines the most durable and environmentally friendly materials to build it from for commercial distribution. The long term outcome expected is that anti-shark nets and baited drum lines will be replaced by the Sharksafe Barrier on beaches world-wide, leading to a decline in negative interactions between sharks and people and the preservation of shark species that are already listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN list.

Prof Conrad Matthee, head of the Department of Botany and Zoology, is actively involved in the development of the barrier and provides guidance to the research team. Craig O'Connell is an American PhD student affiliated with the SU and is conducting part of his research on great whites in South Africa, and particularly on the effect magnetic fields have on sharks. Mike Rutzen is a private researcher and the main funder of the project and runs his own cage-diving company. He regularly dives among sharks in their natural habitat and is an expert in shark behaviour. Sara Andreotti is a PhD student at the SU who is doing research on the genetics of sharks and takes identity photos of them. In her research she has identified more than 400 great whites in Gansbaai.

What Can You Do?

Speak Out for Wildlife: tell local, state and federal or international authorities that you support action to conserve wildlife and their habitats. There is a great deal of evidence that sharks are important to the health of our oceans, help protect them with meaningful measures that do not put other wildlife in danger.