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August 2005 Vol. 31, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Shark Repellent Being Developed

from the August, 2005 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Some South Florida scientists think they have found an effective shark repellent. Dr. Sonny Gruber, a University of Miami shark expert, heads World Class Research in Bimini, Bahamas. His research team has proven that sharks hate or fear the smell of rotting shark carcass.

"And so we have been extracting certain chemicals out of these dead carcasses, purifying them and testing them on Caribbean reef sharks," Gruber said. "And it worked. It worked very well."

Research video shows sleeping baby sharks thrash wildly after they're given a whiff of shark repellent. And bigger sharks blasted with repellent quickly flee.

The company marketing the repellent says it could be available as something lifeguards can throw in the water during an attack. Eventually, they hope to make a bracelet for swimmers and divers -- maybe even a sunblock mixed with shark repellent.

Researchers say a repellent could save thousands of sharks at a time when shark populations are plummeting. About 100 million sharks are killed every year, often by fishermen who are after tuna or swordfish but accidentally catch sharks instead. Gruber says if fishermen put the shark repellent on the bait, the tuna and swordfish won't care, but sharks will stay away.

"If I can protect those baits from sharks biting them, but the fish bite them, then I can save 40,000 to 50,000 sharks a day," Gruber said. "That is what I'm all about with these shark repellents."

The shark repellent could be on the market as early as next year.

--- South Florida, July 7

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