13 July 2005

South Florida scientists create shark repellent

Several shark attacks in Florida waters are bringing the ocean's top predator front and center again. Is there a solution? Some South Florida scientists think they have found an effective shark repellent that could save humans and sharks.

Dr. Sonny Gruber, a University of Miami shark expert, heads up World Class Research in Bimini, Bahamas. His research team has proven that sharks hate or fear the smell of rotting shark carcass.

"And so we have been extracting certain chemicals out of these dead carcasses, purifying them and testing them on those Caribbean reef sharks," Gruber said. "And it worked. It worked very well."

Research video shows sleeping baby sharks thrash wildly after they're given a whiff of shark repellent. And bigger sharks blasted with repellent quickly flee.

The U.S. Navy wanted a repellent because sharks were chewing submarine equipment.

But with shark attacks back in the news this summer, the company marketing the repellent says it could be available as something lifeguards can throw in the water during an attack.

Eventually, they hope to make a bracelet for swimmers and divers -- maybe even a sun block mixed with shark repellent.

Shark repellent could be popular in protecting humans from sharks. But also, researchers say a repellent could save thousands of sharks at a time when shark populations are plummeting.

Studies show about 100 million sharks are killed every year, often by fishermen who are after tuna or swordfish but accidentally catch sharks instead.

Gruber says if fishermen put the shark repellent on the bait, the tuna and swordfish won't care, but sharks will stay away.

"If I can protect those baits from sharks biting them, but the fish bite them, then I can save 40 to 50,000 sharks a day," Gruber said. "That is what I'm all about with these shark repellents."

Gruber's scientists are testing the shark repellent around the clock. They soak some yellow sponges with the repellent and place the sponges on hooks. The bait attracts other fish but not sharks. On a hook without the repellents, Gruber's team reeled in a small shark and quickly released it.

The process is repeated many times because Gruber says there's no room for error when creating a shark repellent to protect humans and sharks.

The shark repellent could be on the market as early as next year.

Source: www.nbc6.net


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