Shark attacks are a very dreaded menace in many shores around the world, and people have tried time and again to come up with ways to minimize shark attacks without harming the animal itself. So, a very innovative way has been devised by a group who catch and release potentially dangerous and aggressive sharks off the coast in Recife, which is in Brazil. And it has been shown in a research that this quirky method has diminished shark attacks on humans by a staggering 97%.
This new method has come as a boon, as sharks are not actually hurt in the process of protecting unsuspecting swimmers and surfers. The most common practice of keeping sharks away from swimmers is known as culling sharks, which is widespread in shores across Australia. But this practice harms the sharks, and quite fatally as well, so there have been huge protests by animal rights activists from around the world.
According to David Shiffman, who is a doctoral student in the University of Miami, “There has been a huge protest by a whopping 50,000 people in Australia, where they protested against lethal methods of controlling sharks. So this new method is really good news and holds much promise.” Shiffman studies shark ecology, but he was not directly involved with the flagship project at Recife.
Over the world, there are between 50 to 70 shark attacks on humans annually, and only a few out of these are fatal. And between the years 2006 and 2010, on an average, only 4.2 people died from shark attacks from around the world. But the actual problem is that, even though the number of fatalities is low, shark attacks generally bring a sense of fear along with them, and this really hampers tourism around beach areas. So to prevent this from happening, local officials feel that a method needs to be improvised to cut down on shark attacks, without actually harming the wonderful beasts.
Recife had seen a rise in shark attacks since 1992, when a port complex was built to the south of the city. Researchers were of the opinion that the construction of the complex somehow disrupted the shark habitat there, which forced the animals into the recreational waters near the port. So overall, there were more than 50 attacks on humans between 1992 and 2011, and a huge 36% of them proved to be fatal.
This ingenious new method was implemented in 2004, where the authorities of Recife started off by deploying drum lines, which are actually fishing lines attached to a large floatable drum, and these lines were baited with multiple hooks. These lines were put around major swimming areas in the region. There was a boat crew that kept constant check on the lines, and any fish that got caught were pulled up, put inside salt water tanks, and then taken to deep waters here they were released, away from recreational waters. Many species of sharks, including tiger sharks, hammerheads and blacktip sharks were caught and taken away in this manner.
This program was implemented over a span of 73 months, and a total of 1121 animals were caught, out of which there were not just sharks, but also rays, ray-finned fish and a few species of marine turtles. Although not all the animals caught were able to survive the ordeal, it was shown that no endangered species died during this operation. But even then, this method has been proven to be the most effective and also not debilitating to the condition of the marine animals, and this method far surpasses the other methods, such as culling the sharks or using gill nets, which work by entangling the fish and then suffocating them.
But Shiffman is of the opinion that this same method will not work at all other shark-infested waters, but can be used as a base for further researches and coming up with better methods of cutting back on shark attacks. And once, when this method was shelved, it was seen that shark attacks increased during that period, while when it was made operational again, the shark attacks stopped altogether, which just proved that this method was working, and was beneficial to both the sharks and the swimmers alike.