Unbaited testing of suit patterns used in "floating" tests points to patterned suits working
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 15 July, 2017 - It's called using "visual pattern technologies" also known as SAMS, the stripey outer design seen on shark deterrent wetsuits, and it's making headlines again this week.
The theory behind the suits? According to the Shark Mitigation Systems, SAMS is a series of designs based on scientific analysis of a shark’s visual systems that can be applied to a variety of applications, including neoprene wetsuits, to disrupt the creature's ability to visually detect its prey.
Since Shark Mitigation Systems began work with The Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia to develop these shark deterrent wetsuits, a lot of speculation has gone on as to whether these suits can actually work or whether they just make the wearer feel more secure without any real scientific backing.
The company just launched a statement pointing to a scientific study that it says proves the suits work. They did some tests in the sharky waters of Mossel Bay, South Africa by floating black wetsuits next to their SAMS-patterned shark deterrent wetties.
What did they find?
"Sharks took an average of 90 seconds to engage with a “control” black neoprene, while interactions between sharks and SAMS disruptive colouration design took between five to six minutes," the company said in a statement. "Unbaited testing is the best way to replicate real-life scenarios. This testing has shown that our technology can increase the time taken before a shark encounter by up to 400% has some obvious safety implications.”
Professor Shaun Collin of the UWA Oceans Institute who has been working with Shark Mitigation Systems on the design and testing for several years is excited about the new data.
“It is fantastic that we now have a data set of interactions with white sharks that is large enough to be statistically valid and capable of scientific analysis," said Collin. "The outcome is compelling and it is exciting to see results from our scientist’s new knowledge of shark visual systems making an impact on practical outcomes”
The company continues to commercialise the technology, having signed licencing agreements with a number of water apparel companies.
Along with the patterned wetsuits, the shark-deterrent market for surfers includes magnetic wear-able wrist and ankle bands, electrodes that mount to the bottom of surfboards and tailpads outfitted with elecronic-field generating devices.