Saturday, July 20, 2013

The anti-Shark Wetsuits - Two!

So much for zebra stripes deterring predators! Source!

OK, yesterday I had a bit of fun.

But actually, this is a serious issue.
The word that comes to mind is unconscionable.
Far from being good technology that has proven itself as stated in the promotional video and suggested by those dozens of press releases, this is yet again one of those commercial scams targeting the fear of Shark strikes - and if the testimony of Peter Moore in this thread is any indication of the anxiety pervading the surfing community in Western Australia, the brazen marketing strategy may even be successful!

I was intrigued by the comment by Marine Dynamics.
Upon asking for more details, I got this answer.
Our lucky seal decoy is made out of a Zebra striped rug (we were desperate for materials). 
Not only is it good for breaching, but even during a chum trip where the sharks have plenty of time to suss it out, they still go for Zebra!
The zebra suit is just bullshit, much like the camo suit that will, if at all, only work as long as its wearer will remain completely motionless and not expel any bubbles - or does anybody really believe that those Sharks are too stupid to detect a person underwater, the more as they are wonderfully equipped for finding their natural prey that is often exquisitely camouflaged?

And the science?
Like in the case of the Shark Shield, the various chemicals and those metals and magnets, I have no doubt that some positive effects have been detected in small, controlled experiments.
But to take those findings and then simply declare them relevant for the prevention of Shark strikes is at best naive and at worst, utterly ruthless and criminally negligent - the more as under certain conditions, they may sometimes even favor instead of repelling a strike, see the zebra decoy and the controversy about the Shark Shield!
We for one would never allow such a garishly striped suit on our Shark dive, ever!

Here's the catch: we'll never know one way or the other!
Like yours truly and others have said a million times, Shark strikes elude science, this because in real life, they are subject to too many variables and are simply too rare to warrant any statistical analysis, and because they cannot be properly tested via the scientific method - as in getting thousands of volunteers splish-splashing around somewhere in the presence of those large predatory Shark and then comparing the results of one variable (= e.g. the zebra wetsuit) against those of a (in this case = suicidal!) control group. 
Or would those assertive gentlemen in the video oblige and personally showcase those suits at one of the GWS aggregation sites - maybe even with the token Shark media whore filming them in slo-mo?

Long story short?
Normally I couldn't be bothered less.
There's plenty of scamsters out there, and there's equally plenty of credulous suckers eager to hand them their money - as amply proven by the stupendous size and growth of quackery and the various bizarre ramifications of the New Age movement ranging from crystal skulls all the way to Lemuria.
So if those aquatic recreationists want to fork out 500 bucks for a textile placebo, good on them - Shark strikes are so incredibly rare that wearing or not wearing those Shark repellent wetsuits will have zero effect, at least when it comes to the statistics.

That is, only if all other variables remain unchanged!
But what if those surfers and spearos were to change their behavior in response to their misguided sense of security, and engage in riskier activities as a consequence? That is definitely a possibility as amply documented by other (legit) safety devices like e.g. dive computers - and if anything should happen, does anybody believe that this meager disclaimer is gonna hold water?
We shall see shall we not!

No worries re the manufacturers.
That's clearly their assumed business risk.

But what about those researchers?
Considering the breathy marketing, the essentially untested and thus misleading scientific foundation (great formula!) and chart and especially, the brazen assurances - is that really something Professor Shaun Collin and Professor Nathan Hart and especially, the Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia want to lend their name to, this in view of the very real risk of being held liable for any future mishaps?

Questions questions!

PS Pete Thomas here - totally forgot about the demented rash guard!


OfficetoOcean said...

I said the same on Facebook, a profiteering exercise based upon exploiting people's fear

jsd said...

Duh. The issue is not what it is safe to wear around sharks but around those pesky damselfishes.

DaShark said...


Very nice!
Still, I would probably deem it a tad too osé, the more as we're never gonna find her again once she has entered the Damsel zone!

jsd said...

Well, if you follow her into the Damsel Zone, make sure you are properly attired. The fact that THIS swimsuit has sold out implies the dangers are considerable.

Jonathan Gonzalez said...

Thanks, I had seen this and these were my thoughts:

When white sharks attack, they come from below and behind, often in very murky water. They are guided by hearing and by sensing vibrations in the water, such as splashes. Their violent predatory attacks occur at speeds of over 20 knots. The sharks roll back their eyes as they bite to protect themselves from struggling prey, thus they never see their prey during such attacks.

Many attacks occur with no warning, suggesting that the sharks sensed the prey and reacted rather than swimming around and eying it first. They always say it's not the shark you see but the one you don't that you should worry about.

Various colors and patterns have been tried as shark deterrents. They may work with some species of sharks, especially those who check out potential prey first, but I wouldn't want to test them on white sharks.

Besides this, pilot fish, which very, very often swim right in front of the noses of many species of sharks, have black and white stripes. Are the sharks terrified of pilot fish? If so, they must live in constant fear.

I think anti-shark gimmicks are like fishing lures: they catch more people than fish.

DaShark said...

Bula Jonathan

Yes, maybe.
But that would be a large GWS attacking a pinniped in a specific manner.
Small GWS don't feed on marine mammals but instead, on fishes and cephalopods, large GWS feed on pinnipeds only during a rather short season, not all individual GWS attack in the same manner, not all circumstances are equally suited for a breach attack, they don't necessarily always roll back their eye, etc etc etc - and that's just the GWS!

As I said, there are just too many variables, and the strikes on people are just too rare for there to be any discernible pattern - let alone for deriving any scientifically tested and "proven" countermeasures!
You may as well try and correlate Shark strikes to eruptions on the sun - who knows!

It's all total BS, a commercial scam.
The only aspect that leaves me baffled is why an academic institution would support it - but then again, like in South Africa it's once again all about the $$$!

There are lists upon lists with sensible (tho equally unproven!) precautions for aquatic recreationists - spare yourself the money and heed that advice, and you should do just fine!
Or not!

Shark Diver said...

If you check out Veronica Grey's comments on shark year magazine, you get an idea of the quality of research involved in designing the striped wetsuit.

My favorite is her reference to yellow stripes a yum yum yellow and saying that yellow stripes attract, but white stripes deter sharks. Interesting theory, considering most sharks don't see colors.

Shark Diver said...

oops, I forgot to include the link to the shark year magazine article.

jsd said...

Yikes -- that is some 'debate'. But then we've seen it 100,000,000 times before.

Out of control Ego plus Lust for fame/celebrity minus rudimentary intellectual ability equals Don't you dare criticise anything I say because I've been on television lots of times.

It is at times like this one would do well to remember the saying: 'Only a fool argues with a fool'.

DaShark said...


Could not agree more JSD.
It's so egregious, it fully warrants another post!