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Can These Surfboard Stickers Really Prevent Shark Attacks?

Another product for people's irrational fear of sharks.

People's fear of sharks is pretty much irrational (only an average of six people die from shark attacks per year), but anything that will make people's brains match up with the stats is good.

One form of this is shark-deterring surfboard stickers.

prevent shark attacks Credit: Smart Marine Systems

According to Wired, Smart Marine Systems (the company behind the shark-detecting sonar buoy) teamed up with a professor and a doctor from the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute, Shaun Collin and Nathan Hart, who had studied shark eyesight.

The scientists had found that sharks may use "brightness contrast" to determine what objects are.

That's because sharks are likely colorblind.

prevent shark attacks


Based on that research, SMS developed surfboard stickers and wetsuits with pattern technology to potentially keep sharks from accidentally attacking surfers, divers and swimmers.

The board stickers feature black and white stripes. The company's site states that the stripes break up the outline of the board.

That makes it look less like a tasty seal from below.

prevent shark attacks

GIPHY/Simon O'Sullivan

Per NatGeo, the stripes were also designed to look like sea snakes and lionfish, which sharks don't like to eat. The company is all about non-invasive ways to keep sharks uninterested in surfers and divers.

This is just one more form of insurance.

prevent shark attacks Smart Marine Systems

SMS is not the only company to adopt this technique. SharkStripes sells black-striped wetsuit-style leg warmers that operate in the same capacity.

Both companies are careful to note, though, that using the products does not guarantee safety. People should still always use caution when occupying the same waters as a potential shark.

However, SMS did conduct field tests on their wetsuits with promising results. SMS co-founder Hamish Jolly gave a TED talk in which he showed video from these tests.

In it, a tiger sharks attacked a baited black wetsuit, but did not attack the SMS baited blue contrast wetsuit (designed for diving). Same thing for a great white shark and a baited striped surfing wetsuit.

prevent shark attacks


Further field testing is in the works.

You can see the footage at around 8:40 in the below video:

Not everyone is a believer, though. George Burgess told NatGeo that he thinks the suits could have an opposite effect and actually attract sharks. Per NatGeo, Burgess feared "a moving striped object would be 'highly attractive'" to the sharks, who he believes see contrast quite well, having monochrome vision.

Plus, he says that sharks use their other senses (like smell, taste and hearing) way more than eyesight when hunting, anyway.

Stickers and wetsuits won't necessarily protect you from a shark's sharp nose.

prevent shark attacks


SMS acknowledges this on their site, but also claims that "research has shown that in the final stages of an actual attack, the ability to see the prey is critical." The company hopes that "by disrupting the shark's visual perception, an attack may either be diverted altogether or at least delayed to allow time for evasive action."

In essence, nothing is ever a sure bet against a wild animal. But, like SharkStripes co-founder Jeremy Kenny told The Canberra Times, "It should be seen as one way to reduce the already low risk. Think of it as like wearing a helmet on a bike, or personal protective equipment on a work site."

So, it could be better than nothing. (Unless you believe Burgess' line of thinking.)


And, at the end of the day, these stickers and wetsuits just a way for humans to feel safer and match their mindset with the facts — that shark attacks are really, really rare and fatal ones even more so.

Whatever board you have, you're probably gonna be just fine. But, sure, slap some stripes on there if you feel like it.

At the very least, you'll have a rocking board design.

prevent shark attacks

GIPHY/Simon O'Sullivan

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