The Inertia for Good Editor
Scalloped hammerhead entangled in a Queensland shark control net

Scalloped hammerhead entangled in a Queensland shark control net at Magnetic Island, Townsville. Photo: Nicole McLachlan

The Inertia

Human efforts to mitigate the risks of shark attacks can be very controversial. Anything done to make the ocean safer for people should be a positive, in theory. But methods like installing shark nets are far from humane and many conservationists argue that our desire to swim in the ocean is trivial if we have to harm animals in order to do so.

One 2023 report revealed that almost 90 percent of the animals unintentionally caught and harmed in New South Wales shark nets were other marine animals. And more than 60 percent of all animals entangled in those nets end up dying — adding support to the argument that shark nets are an outdated and cruel way to attempt to make the ocean a safer recreational space for people.

Dr. Craig O’Connell, also known as The Shark Doctor, is a Marine Scientist and host of multiple Shark Week productions who feels the same way. He’s spent the past few years developing a technologically advanced take on the shark net that is safer for the animals and appears to be effective in keeping people safe too.

“How can we kill these animals in order to make the ocean a little more convenient for us to use recreationally?” O’Connell asks.

The Exclusion Barrier O’Connell created is a series of floating pilings that encase electromagnets — the same kind of technology we see in personal-use shark repelling devices like bracelets and ankle bands. There are no nets or hooks that can hurt sharks or other animals and the objective is simply to create a wall of electromagnetic forcefields that will repel sharks rather than entrap them.

His team reportedly tested the barrier in Cape Cod last year with promising results. Eighteen sharks approached the barrier more than 100 times during the test period and it was effective in turning them away 100 percent of the time. In other tests, O’Connell and his team found that the barrier was also sturdy enough to hold up against breaking waves as big as five feet and “very strong currents.”


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