The use of permanent magnets, electropositive rare earth metals (EPREM) and other electrical measures has been trialled as a means of deterring sharks from approaching baited hooks. Permanent magnets are made from magnetised material and create their own persistent magnetic field. EPREM react with seawater to create such fields.
Elasmobranch fishes (sharks, skates and rays) are able to detect the Earth's geomagnetic field using their ampullae of Lorenzini. Electropositive metals or magnets appear to generate an aversion response in some species of sharks through an overstimulation of their ampullae, which are sensitive electroreceptors. Research has shown that different shark species respond differently to magnets and metals. Tuna and swordfish do not have electroreceptors and are not repelled by magnets or EPREM.
Recent studies have evaluated the effects of incorporating magnets and rare earth metals into longline and rod and reel fishing gear. In some instances, magnets and/or metals have been incorporated directly into fishing hooks, while at other times they have been added to the line (e.g. as metal discs) at varying distances from the hook. Magnets and EPREM have been trialled individually and in tandem.
Results have been promising, but more investigation and large-scale trials are required. SharkGuard is an experimental, electric pulsed device designed to mitigate shark and ray bycatch. Following successful prototype tests that achieved a 90% reduction in shark catch, commercial testing is planned for the 2019 European summer. Commercially available 'Smart Hooks' combine both a magnetic and a galvanic repellent.
Note that the inclusion of links for 'SharkGuard' and 'Smart Hooks' is for information only, and does not signify endorsement by WCPFC.
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