Dead shark smell to keep waters safe

Rondebosch residents Simon Brooker, Jane Fellows and Collin Brooker are working on creating a shark repellent thats ecologically friendly.

With the holiday season approaching, many people will be heading to the beach, but the possibility of a shark attack is still a deterrent to some.

Although shark spotters and nets at some beaches will help to ease some bathers’ minds, Rondebosch resident Collin Brooker says there are more effective ways to prevent shark attacks.

Mr Brooker and his family sold their home in the UK and have travelled around the world to study different methods to prevent shark attacks. They wanted to find a solution that would protect not only bathers but also sharks, which are culled in some parts of the world.

Now, based on research conducted with the help of CatScI scientist Dr Joanna Robinson, he believes he has found the perfect solution. It seems that just as we humans cringe at the smell of our dead, so too do sharks.

“Sharks hate the smell of a dead shark and they won’t come near a 5km radius of a dead shark. A white shark can smell a billionth of a molecule, 5km away. If you can keep him from charging 5km away, it’s better. Historically it’s proven: fishermen used to attach a shark at the back of the trawler with fishing nets to stop the sharks coming to take the food.

“We study shark interaction across the globe and thought how do we scare a shark. Our first stop was on Reunion Island, which is suffering considerable consequences with shark culling from a tourism perspective. The whole ecology surrounding the island has been devastated to the point where the area is now classified as a natural disaster area,” said Mr Brooker.

It was while on Reunion that he heard about the interruption to the world surfing championships in South Africa due to a shark attack and he decided to come here to study shark interactions.

Mr Brooker and his family have since travelled the full length of the West Coast to continue their research and are developing a system called Podi, which will ward off sharks using synthetic material based on the essence of a dead shark.

“We settled here to continue our research and testing in False Bay and to establish manufacture here. We’re developing a device that utilises synthetically reproduced essence of dead shark to repel sharks from close contact and interaction with humans.

“Stats show some 50.8% of attacks with mankind emanate from surfing activities, therefore our devices will go a considerable way in affording personal protection to surfers riding the waves. The natural essence of dead shark is put into a solid dissolvable tablet form which is inserted into surfboards or the ankle straps. It dissolves in water and keeps sharks at bay.”

The repellent is currently in its development stage, and Mr Brooker and his team have come up with another project in the meantime. It’s called Seadog, and it has been created to fund Podi.

Seadog supplies surf leashes and surf vests for dogs whose owners want them to join them in the waves.

Surf dog championships take place in California, and the Brookers hope to bring it to South Africa.

“Proceeds from sales will go towards sponsorship for worthy causes, from Shark Spotters to disabled sport like Surfability UK. The rest of the money will go to funding Podi,” said Mr Brooker.

Visit http://seadogsport.com/ to find out more about Seadog or Podi.