November 3, 2005
Brilliant ideas #1: Shark training
Those of you who know me will be aware that I like to spend time on
the water. Of late this time has mostly been on a surfboard. Now, most
people who’ve surfed will have thought from time to time about
sharks. It’s well known that sharks, and particularly Great Whites,
have an occasional tendency to take bites out of surfboards and
whoever happens to be sitting on top of them.
Now, the thing is that the sharks tend to spit that bite out and not
bother taking another. Despite their reputation, Great Whites
(especially large Great Whites) are fairly canny operators. They like
seals. Seals are rich and fatty and an excellent source of high-energy
food for a shark on the go. Sharks don’t like mouthfuls of skinny white
neoprene-wrapped surfer, or nasty epoxy-coated polystyrene foamy
stuff. That’s why they tend to spit out the first bite they take. Too
bad that bite might have your kidney in it.
Seals do have this unfortunate habit of lolling about on the
surface with a fin or two sticking out… rather like a surfer waiting
for a wave, especially on a short board (so not me). I think that
we’re going the wrong way about the shark problem. What we should do,
rather than hanging shark nets around beaches, is anchor a row of
shortboards about 100 metres offshore. Any incoming shark that feels
inclined to mistake a board for a seal will have a go at the empty
boards and be educated on the differences.
Sharks have excellent vision, so the next time it sees a surfboard,
being an intelligent and now educated critter, it will associate it
with a nasty and unrewarding mouthful of fiberglass and foam, and
leave it alone.