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Revolutionising the concept of shark management

The SharkSafe BarrierTM combines biomimicry of a thick kelp forest and magnetic fields to keep humans at bay from sharks without harming them or any other large marine species. Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature in order to solve challenges in the human world.

The nature-inspired SharkSafe BarrierTM technology, 15 years in development, is currently the only eco-friendly alternative to shark nets. The latter “walls of death“, in use since 1950, are not shark specific and kill thousands of harmless sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and large bony fish every year. According to new data published by the government of New South Wales, almost 90% of marine animals caught in shark nets along this Australian state’s coast over the past year were non-targeted species.

Dr Sara Andreotti, extraordinary lecturer in marine biology at SU and a founding director of SharkSafe BarrierTM, says the kelp-like forest created by their barrier technology has been designed to remain in the water for at least 20 years with minimal maintenance required. Eventually, it changes into a reef-like haven for local sea life.

The barrier has been tried and tested extensively in South African coastal waters — from those crashing on the rough, rocky shores of Gansbaai to the sandy beaches of Glencairn — as well as in the tropical waters of Réunion island and the Bahamas. However, the SharkSafe BarrierTM in the Bahamas constitutes the first commercial installation of this technology. Andreotti is now working with coastal municipalities in South Africa to develop alternative funding mechanisms for installation locally, as well as with municipal authorities in Australia and New Caledonia.

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