New Device Could Help Save Sharks From Getting Caught In Fishing Hooks

A new device could help save millions of sharks from being caught on fishing hooks each year.

According to Shark Allies, as many as “50 million sharks are caught on longlines set for other fish” each year. Those numbers are especially troubling considering that the world’s shark populations are in danger.

Photo: Pexels/Matt Waters

The NOAA reports, “While the majority of shark species have sustainable populations, a number of them have been shrinking at an alarming rate. For these species, overfishing, bycatch, and shark finning are contributing factors in their decline.”

The World Wildlife Fund says, “These [sharks] that are so essential to the natural order of marine ecosystems now face their most severe threat from overfishing. Many species are threatened with extinction…While sharks and rays have been an irreplaceable resource for coastal communities in the developing world for centuries, this unique balance is in danger of being lost forever.”

WFF notes that “Restoring shark populations is key to improving the resilience of these water bodies to climate change.”

Photo: Flickr/NOAA Photo Library License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Conservationists have been hard at work to come up with a solution to the issue, and many encourage people to reduce ocean fish consumption to help lower bycatch numbers. The less demand for ocean fishing that happens, the less bycatch will occur, and the less sharks will be harmed in that process. But considering how many people continue to eat ocean fish despite the devastating outcomes of fishing on our oceans, conservationists are wanting different solutions to fight the problem.

It seems one conservation organization has created a brilliant device that could be the answer to the shark bycatch problem. The new product, aptly named SharkGuard, was the creation of the conservation company Fishtek Marine.

Photo: Unsplash/Oleksandr Sushko

Fishtek Marine explains that SharkGuards are small devices that easily attach to longline fishing hooks. The devices create powerful electric pulses in the water that deter sharks while leaving other fish species unbothered.

According to Fishtek Marine, the most recent trials of the product reduced the average catch rates of blue sharks by an incredible 91%, and it reduced the average catch rates of pelagic stingrays by 71%. The company noticed the use of SharkGuard devices on longline commercial fishing fleets “could slow and even reverse the decline in shark populations by dramatically and rapidly reducing bycatch.”

You can see the new device in action in the video below:

You can read the full trial results of the device in the research paper, “Efficacy of a novel shark bycatch mitigation device in a tuna longline fishery,” published in the journal Current Biology.

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