Response of juvenile lemon sharks, Negaprion brevirostris, to a magnetic barrier simulating a beach net
Beach nets are preventative devices used to minimize interactions between potentially harmful sharks and unsuspecting swimmers. Quantitative studies demonstrated that beach nets drastically reduced local elasmobranch populations, as well as caused considerable bycatch mortality. For this experiment, a beach net-like device was constructed and the behaviors of six juvenile lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) were analyzed. Induced by olfactory and gustatory cues, sharks were given the choice to swim through a magnetic or control opening in the net. In the first trial, all six sharks avoided the magnetic region and significantly preferred to swim through the control region of the fence. The magnetic stimulus no longer affected the swimming behavior of three sharks retested after resting 24 h. Results from the retested sharks were correlated with those from repeated tonic immobility trials, which demonstrated a linear decrease in sensitivity to repeated magnetic stimulation. This study serves as a baseline experiment demonstrating that permanent magnets may substantially decrease elasmobranch mortality within beach nets.