People are afraid of sharks. Plain and simple. Perhaps the first time the man in the grey suit entered the public psyche in a big way was when Jaws came out in theaters in 1975. And Mick Fanning’s shark encounter almost a year-to-the-day was the most recent addition to pop culture shark lore.
If the way sharks are represented in film, literature, and the media, were to be über-simplified, it could probably be done so thusly: humans + sharks = danger. Though an average beach day can be disrupted by a a laundry list of other natural dangers (i.e. jellyfish, stingrays, rip currents, glass in the sand, used needles in the sand, and on and on), that hasn’t stopped the general public from latching onto and perpetuating the fear that a creature lurking in the deep might confuse you for a seal and bite you – no matter how minute the possibility.
Leveraging (or perhaps succumbing to) this fear, numerous companies have invested time and resources into developing technologies designed to repel sharks. You may be aware of some – we have written about them quite extensively on our site. But this time, we asked a researcher point blank if they’re effective. His answer: no.
Dr. Chris Lowe is a marine biologist and director of California State University, Long Beach’s Shark Lab. He says that shark repellent technologies simply don’t work. In most tests, the highest success rate of any repellent on the market is about 90%. That’s 9 out of 10 times.
While extremely uncommon, shark encounters can be deadly. So, a product that claims to have a 9 out of 10 success rate protecting you from a deadly attack is akin to selling a parachute to a skydiver that works 9 out of 10 times. What happens that 10th time?
Not to mention, shark repellents often result in people feeling invincible and acting more irresponsibly than they normally would.
Says Dr. Lowe, “While I think it’s worthwhile research to investigate, I just can’t find any that I think work well enough to guarantee somebody’s safety.”