New progress has been made in shark research which has resulted in the lives of hundreds of sharks being saved. Eric Stroud, a chemist based in North Bimini in the Bahamas, has made a lucky discovery: sharks are repelled by magnets. This new finding will have a profound effect in fishing industries and in shark attacks on humans. In the long run, it will benefit sharks the most however, saving them from swimming into fishing nets and from being illegally fished.

Stroud started out as a chemist to a large pharmaceutical company in the United States of America. In the summer of 2001, were on a cruise in Bermuda when they hit bad weather and were forced to sit tight in the ships cabin. While listening to the radio, Stroud was startled by the number of shark attacks that were being reported.

It was then that Stroud decided to devote his time to shark research. Giving up his pharmaceutical position, Stroud spent the next decade focusing on a solution to shark attacks. His dedication, passion and findings have seen a reduction of 60 – 70% in sharks being caught by fishing nets and has earned him an award from the World Wildlife Fund.

During his research, Stroud found that sharks would bend and swim away from magnets. After further experiments and investigation, Stroud discovered that this was due to sharks having electrical senses – “the ampullai of Lorenzini” – which they use to detect the heartbeats of their prey and navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field.

Placing magnets in close proximity to sharks is believed to interfere with their senses, similar to a bright light being shone at a human being. The success of this repletion technique is also reliant on the species of shark, as not all shark species rely on or even have electrical senses. This technique of repelling sharks has yet to yield positive results in many shark infested waters, such as those along the west coast of South Africa – scientists and biologists are now concentrating their focus in these areas.

Stroud’s finding has had a remarkable impact on the accidental fishing of sharks in fishing industries around the world. His research has produced magnetic fishing hooks which yield successful results in attracting fishing species and repelling sharks. With positive results for both shark conservation and fishermen, magnetic hooks are likely to become standard within many fishing industries.

Stroud hopes to refine his investigation to reach all species of sharks and have positive results in all shark territories. With such positive results and ground-breaking findings, there’s no doubt that the eyes of the fishing, surfing and wildlife conservation communities will be watching him closely with great enthusiasm.

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