LED light-up surfboards could deter shark attacks

April 12, 2018 | Environment
Sharks: they don't appreciate LED lights | Photo: Macquarie Lighthouse

A group of Australian scientists concluded that LED lights installed on the bottom of a surfboard could help avoid shark attacks on surfers.

A series of tests using seal-shaped decoys with built-in lights revealed that sharks stayed away from their potential prey.

"We tried to use lights as a strategy of counter-illumination. It breaks up the surfer's silhouette making it much less enticing for the shark to investigate," notes Nathan Hart, associate professor of Biological Sciences at the Macquarie University, in Australia.

According to the comparative neurobiologist, the idea was inspired by a strategy already used by midwater fish when trying to avoid predators swimming below them.

"These fish have light-emitting organs on their underside, which put out light and help them to camouflage themselves from the light coming from above."

Nathan Hart: the comparative neurobiologist believes LED lights under surfboards will deter great white sharks | Photo: Macquarie Lighthouse

However, Hart, who has already worked with several entities in the development of camouflage wetsuits, notes that you can't simply turn on a LED light under your surfboard.

"There are specific patterns and brightness levels that you need to use, so I'd caution against surfers just putting anything on the bottom of their board," stressed Hart.

The new and unusual shark deterrent mechanism has been successfully tested with great white sharks, but the team plans to continue their experimentations with other species.

Nathan Hart hopes that, in the next two years, it will be possible to roll out a commercial surfboard with a built-in lighting system, as well as specially designed wetsuits for surfers and divers.

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