Sharks are the predators of the sea and there is nothing they like more than to snack on a tasty morsel like a seal, however they can mistake a diver in wetsuit for a seal, and as a consequence the attack humans.
Now an Australian company has invented wetsuits that confuse a shark’s vision by making the wearer seem invisible.
One of the designs repels the shark by making the wearer unpalatable and the other replicates the natural patterns of the ocean.
Bob Lushey from Radiator Wetsuits thinks they have done a good job: “In all my time in the wetsuit business – over 20 years – the most common thing we get asked is ‘What colour do sharks like? I don’t want to look like a seal’. Well, now we know the answer to that question and that is pretty exciting.”
Scientists from the University of Western Australia Oceans Institute collaborated with designers from Shark Attack Mitigation Systems to construct a specifically patterned wetsuit which appears to lower a shark’s visual acuity and confuse its senses.
Although they do not claim the suit provide fail-safe protection against shark attacks, results from initial testing of the wetsuits in the ocean with wild sharks have been interesting.
Hamish Jolly from Shark Attack Mitigation System said: “The strategies are two fold. One is a ‘cant see me’ strategy, and the other one is a ‘can see me but don’t eat me’ strategy, the idea being that even though you are perceived, you are not perceived as a meal.”
Australia’s coast is well-known for such attacks. Western Australia has had five fatal shark attacks in the last 12 months – well above the average of one fatality a year.
In 2011, a combined study from scientists at the University of Western Australia and the University of Queensland found that sharks are colour blind and can only see in shades of grey.
“The most important factor of their senses that they use in the last few seconds before attack, is their sight, so the systems and the technology that we’ve developed, creates confusion for their sight sense, so that’s really what the technology is about,” said Craig Anderson from Shark Attack Mitigation System.
Shark Attack Mitigation Systems has a disclaimer on their website noting that the repelling technology is decreased under reduced light and in murky water.
More testing will begin in South Africa this December.