Large numbers of sharks and rays are caught as bycatch each year. It’s a big problem because many species of sharks are already endangered. A new invention could help them, which can warn sharks in time and thus save them from getting caught on a fishing hook or in a fishing net.

SharkGuard can save over 90% of sharks

The device is called SharkGuard. This device is placed on the long lines used by fishermen. It creates an electric field around the hook, and this electric field can be picked up by sharks and rays with their electroreceptors. Tests have shown that SharkGuard can reduce bycatch in sharks by 91% and stingrays by 71%. If this technology is spread to all fishermen, it could significantly reduce the decline of endangered sharks around the world.

“The main implication is that commercial longline fishing may continue, but it won’t always necessarily result in the mass bycatch of sharks and rays,” said Dr. Robert Enever of the conservation company Fishtek Marine, producers of SharkGuard.

The device has been successfully tested

Among the biggest threats to sharks living in the open ocean is tuna fishing with long lines. SharkGuard was inspired by the devices used by divers and surfers against sharks. Dr. Enever and his colleagues used this technology to protect sharks from becoming bycatch. The first test of the device was carried out in the summer of 2021 in southern France, and the test results were published in the journal Current Biology. 2 fishing vessels fished 22 longlines on 11 separate trips, deploying a total of more than 18,000 hooks.

SharkGuard via SWNS

SharkGuard will help make fishing more sustainable

Hooks equipped with SharkGuard significantly reduced the number of blue sharks and pelagic rays caught compared to standard hooks. The number of tuna caught was not affected. The team is now working to make the device have a battery life so anglers don’t have to keep changing it. A full set of induction-charged SharkGuard devices for 2,000 hooks would cost around $20,000 (£16,790) and would last three to five years, which the researchers say is a modest annual cost for most commercial tuna fishing operations. It is very important that fishing is sustainable and this device can make a big contribution to that.

“There is hope! Against the relentless backdrop of stories of dramatic declines occurring across all species, it is important to remember that there are people working hard to find solutions,” said Enever enthusiastically.

“SharkGuard is an example of where, given the appropriate backing, it would be possible to roll the solution out on a sufficient scale to reverse the current decline in global shark populations.”

Featured image: SharkGuard via SWNS