Want to live every day like it’s Shark Week? Scientists in Australia have created what they’re dubbing the world’s first shark-deterrent wetsuit. A collaboration between Hamish Jolly and Craig Anderson of Shark Attack Mitigation Systems and University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, the suit comes in two versions—one for camouflage and one to repel. Both designs exploit the shark’s reliance on visual cues. The blue-and-white “Elude,” aimed at divers and snorkelers, uses patterns that allow its wearer to fade into the background. “Diverter,” mainly for surfers, presents a system of black-and-white bands that telegraph the wearer’s “unpalatability” as a food item to predators.
Testing of the designs using dummies and tiger sharks off Australia’s west coast has been largely positive, with Jolly calling the initial results “quite extraordinary.”
“We cannot say that our suits are a fail safe protection against shark attack but we believe they certainly can assist without necessitating any additional equipment or cost other than what is already being used,” he says in a statement. “We envisage that testing will be an ongoing process over many years to come, as well.”
“That striped suit that is supposed to look like a lionfish is about as nice a thing as you can do to attract a shark, because of the contrast between dark and light,” he says. The blue-and-white Elude might be more effective if it included counter-shading, a pattern of coloration—and natural cloaking strategy—in which an animal’s pigmentation is darker on the top side and lighter on its belly.
Shark attacks, which account for about five fatalities a year worldwide, are extremely rare, Burgess adds. Still, “anything we can do to reduce our loss is always as good for us as it is for the sharks who get a bad rap,” he says.
In other words, some peace of mind is better than nothing.