Electronic Shark Shield to Help Keep Swimmer Safe


Written by Jaymi Heimbuch, a Treehugger blogger

Controversy over how ocean swimmer deal with sharks was raised after reports that Penny Palfrey’s team killed three oceanic whitetip sharks during her record-setting swim. Swimmer Diana Nyad wants to be sure to avoid any possible issues with sharks, and so will be wearing a new “shark shield” designed to keep the predatory fish at bay.

Nyad, an experienced 61-year-old swimmer, is attempting a 60-hour, 103 mile swim between Cuba and the Florida Keys. So far, the swim has never been completed, but she is hoping to break that record — and shark shield may keep her safe as she does it.

Nyad states:

Sharks have made news in recent weeks, from attacks near U.S. beaches to how they were treated by the team of a fellow ocean swimmer. There were some reports – denied by those involved – that sharks were harmed when Penny Palfrey swam in the Caymans.I just want to be crystal clear about how my team will handle sharks on our upcoming attempt to make history in swimming the 103 miles from Cuba to Florida: No shark will be harmed at any time during our event.

An Australian company has created Shark Shield, a small electrical device that is built to annoy sharks, which are sensitive to electrical signal.

According to the New York Times, Shark Shield sends a 3D electrical wave that affects the Ampullae of Lorenzini, the part of the shark that can receive and decode electrical signals which helps them, among other things, locate prey. The pulses can be felt by sharks from as far as 30 feet away. While they may come closer to investigate, the Shark Shield’s pulses become increasingly uncomfortable to the point that it can even cause muscle spasms at a distance of about 12 feet which, in theory, will send sharks swimming the other way.

Nyad states,“My dive team will first of all surround me with kayaks carrying electronic Shark Shields about 3 feet under the water. This electronic current does not bother me and does not injure sharks but does serve to annoy them…Picture me effectively wrapped in a 30-foot bubble of electronic pulses that repel sharks.”

The New York Times reports that the $400, 1-pound piece of equipment has been shown to be an effective protection measure against sharks. The batteries last between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the model, so Nyad’s divers will have to change batteries fairly often during the 60-hour swim. Even so, it may prove to be an invaluable tool for the trek.

Nyad acknowledges that the sharks may come in closer out of curiosity, and her dive team is ready to drive off any sharks coming too close without harming them. She emphasizes, “Again, let me state as clearly and as loudly as I possibly can: We will not destroy any shark on our way from Cuba to Florida. Our attitude is that these are beautiful, necessary animals. We need them. The oceans need them.”

There is little doubt that if (and when) Nyad completes her record-setting swim, she does not want it tainted with controversy over the killing of sharks that were seen as a threat. For her to state so clearly before her swim that she respects sharks in their own environment is admirable. She’ll be making the swim this summer, and you can check out her website for more details.

This post was originally published by Treehugger.

Related Stories:

Shark Deaths Throwing Off Ocean Balance

Success! Commercial Shark Finning Banned in the Bahamas

Is Seafood Sustainable? How to Save the Ocean

Photo from kahunapulej via flickr


Adrianna l.
Adrianna l6 years ago

pretty sad that u killd 2 sharks still, even though you were on their turf -_- , but creating that is good to save lives .

Treesa Math
tia Math6 years ago

good article

Jane R.
Jane R6 years ago

I wish her lots of luck!

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

Do some of you commenters read the entire article? Get a grip.

Again, let me state as clearly and as loudly as I possibly can: We will not destroy any shark on our way from Cuba to Florida. Our attitude is that these are beautiful, necessary animals. We need them. The oceans need them.” This was in the paragraph before the last had you bother to read the whole artice.

clara H.
Clara Hamill6 years ago

What a bunch of morons posting on here she's trying not to harm the sharks and if she wants to swim for a record it's her business as long as she's not harming anyone your wasting your time complaining. Good luck on her swim.

Beverly G.
bev g6 years ago

right on NANCY R, your right, i agree. People should be careful of everything , wot do they expect ? Idiots all of them.. Oh im a human, im in the water, so dont come near me/!! Derrr!!!!!? idiots. Sickens me with idiotic people and the Worlds Lovely animals. God bless all the animals on this earth cos mans treating them very badly nowadays.

Kirsten M.
Kirsten M.6 years ago

Some of the people commenting on this post are acting pretty ignorant. The shark shield doesn't hurt the sharks and Nyad is all about protecting sharks, hence why her team will not be killing any sharks. If this device allows humans and sharks to coexist then I don't see the issue. She's being responsible for both herself and for the sharks. Some of you people need to actually read and take in the article before you snap to a harsh judgement.

Shirley Marsh
Shirley Marsh6 years ago

Some people obviously haven't taken the time to actually read the article before making their comments! Otherwise they'd know Nyad is a conservationist who appreciates the beauty of sharks and the necessary role they play in the ecosystem - as do all other living beings - and is taking precautions which will protect her and the sharks! Getting your facts straight first is a pretty good thing, don't you think?

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim6 years ago

Cool, very high tech device. This is a good step towards safety for the sharks and for ourselves.

Christine S.

I hope the shield works, to save sharks' lives....