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Can certain metals repel sharks from fishing gear?
Date:4/22/2008

Sharks in captivity avoid metals that react with seawater to produce an electric field, a behavior that may help fishery biologists develop a strategy to reduce the bycatch of sharks in longline gear. Shark bycatch is an increasing priority worldwide given diminished populations of many shark species, and because sharks compete with target species for baited lines, reducing fishing efficiency and increasing operating costs.

A recent study by NOAA scientists and colleagues on captive juvenile sandbar sharks showed the presence of an electropositive alloy, in this case palladium neodymium, clearly altered the swimming patterns of individual animals and temporarily deterred feeding in groups of sharks. Rare earth metals have previously been reported to deter spiny dogfish from attacking bait due to interactions with the sharks electroreceptive system, which detects weak electric fields including those generated by their prey. Electric fields generated by electropositive alloys are believed to deter or repel sharks by overloading their sensory systems.

"Individual sandbar sharks would generally not approach the metal ingots closer than about 24 inches, nor attack pieces of cut bait suspended within approximately 12 inches, said Richard Brill, a research scientist at NOAAs Northeast Fisheries Science Center and head of the Cooperative Marine Education and Research (CMER) Program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. This study clearly shows the alloy has the potential to repel sharks from pelagic longline fishing gear so they are not caught as bycatch, but the optimal size and shape of the alloy and other factors needs to be determined. This is a promising step.

Up to now, electronic devices capable of repelling sharks have been large and not practical for use on longline fishing gear. The current project was undertaken to determine if small ingots of a relatively inexpensive electropositive alloy were repulsive to sharks under c
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Contact: Shelley Dawicki
shelley.dawicki@noaa.gov
508-495-2378
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
Source:Eurekalert

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