By José Manual Abad Liñan
Australia is preparing to start its peak tourist season threatened by the increase in shark attacks.
Just off the coast of New South Wales, which is more than 2,000 kilometers long, 13 bathers and surfers have been attacked by sharks so far in 2015, up from just three in 2014.
This is an "unprecedented" increase, according to Australian Prime Minister Mike Baird.
The government chaired by Baird has sponsored an international meeting with experts in science and technology to immediately test new systems that detect the arrival of animals to the coast in time.
Ideas are also being sought to deter sharks from attacking swimmers. In the last two years, nine people have died from these attacks. Among the technologies to deter them, experts propose installing underground electrical barriers that would be powered by wave energy and devices that bathers and surfers would wear.
The Shark Shield company has designed a device with the same name ("shark shield") that must be attached to the ankle and that emits an electric field that interacts with gelatinous blisters on the sharks' snouts to cause them to spasm.
The device has been tested by the University of Western Australia, which confirms its effects - up to 90% success, they say - while waiting to know in more detail what effects it has on some species of sharks.
Another of the proposed solutions is to extend a rigid nylon barrier capable of resisting the force of ocean currents. Some experts prefer them to fine mesh nets, which are harmful to corals on the seabed.
The installation of electric barriers is also being studied: its supporter, the marine biologist Geremy Cliff, believes that they may be a solution, but acknowledged that their development is still precarious.
The meeting also discussed shark detection technologies, such as the Clever Buoy system ("smart beacon"), which sends signals to a satellite indicating the animal's proximity to shore.
Other researchers have proposed swimwear for surfers that color-blind sharks would mistake for the seabed.
The government also relies on local scientists to collect recent discoveries from around the world. This is the case of Bond University marine biologist Daryl McPhee. Speaking to the agency France Presse, he pointed out that "sharks have seven senses.
We don't know for sure how they are perceived by their environment, but we know a lot more [about it] than we did ten years ago.
We can now use technology to design better deterrence technologies. ”Ultimately, the cause of the increase in attacks by these animals is unknown.