Although relatively rare, human-shark interactions and sharks bites are increasing globally, which has led to the development of various mitigation measures. Electric shark deterrents (ESDs) have, so far, been the most effective personal deterrents, but have only been scientifically tested on one of the species most frequently responsible for shark bites, i.e. white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). We tested the effectiveness of five ESDs (E-Shark Force, NoShark, Rpela v2, Freedom + Surf, Freedom + Surf—Shortboard) on bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, over a period of 21 days in September 2019, in New Caledonia. Standardised bait was attached 30 cm below an experimental board that had an active ESD for up to 15 min, or until a bull shark touched the bait or the board. We compared the numbers of baits taken, numbers of passes and reactions around the board, as well as the distance between the sharks and the board among ESDs and against a control board with bait and no active ESD. The Freedom + Surf was the most effective ESD, reducing the amounts of baits taken by 42.3%, while the Rpela v2 and Freedom + Surf—Shortboard also significantly reduced the number of baits taken by 16.5% and 16.2% respectively. Mean distance between sharks and the bait was not affected by the ESDs, but the number of approaches and the proportion of reactions were both significantly higher when the Freedom + Surf was active compared to other ESDs. The effectiveness of all ESDs decreased over time, with the likelihood of the bait being taken increasing and the number of approaches and distance between sharks and the bait decreasing. Our findings show that the ability of ESDs to deter bull shark varies between products, with the Freedom + Surf resulting in the most behavioural changes, followed by the Rpela v2 and Freedom + Surf—Shortboard. However, none of the products tested completely stopped sharks from taking the bait.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was financially supported by the Centre Sécurité Requin, funded by the French government. We would like to thank the volunteers and their institutions who assisted with small parts of the field work: Pauline Machfull (Caldoclean), Hubert Geraux (WWF New Caledonia), Marc Oremus (WWF New Caledonia), Mike Ragoucy (City of Nouméa), and Caroline Groseil (Nature Guard from Province Sud). Thank you as well to the Province Sud, the city of Nouméa, Port Autonome de Nouvelle Calédonie, Direction des Affaires Maritimes de Nouvelle Calédonie, and Direction de la Sécurité Civile et de la Gestion du Risque for their assistance. The study was undertaken under Permit no: 2844-2019/ARR/DENV. Testing of electric deterrents on sharks was undertaken under Flinders University Animal Ethics Committee approval E446.
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