Changing Planet

Nat Geo WILD: Documenting Wild Sharks at Dawn

By Vic Peddemors, scientific expert on Shark Attack Experiment: LIVE

World-wide, the mantra for reducing potential shark attack is ‘don’t bathe at dawn and dusk’. But is this based on fact or fiction? The Shark Attack Experiment: Live program will provide a unique opportunity to test whether bathers and surfers are potentially more at risk during the changing light conditions. It is widely believed that sharks hunt more during these low-light periods as their prey may battle to detect predators during changing light conditions, and so change their behaviour.

Using low-light cameras and a series of demonstrations, the program will, for the first time ever, be able to document shark behaviour right through the dawn period. This unique opportunity will allow us scientists to better understand some of the aspects potentially affecting shark decisions to investigate humans as potential prey items.

These trials are being conducted at dawn when surfers, body-boarders and kayakers are out on the water at this time while the surf is glassy and clean before the wind picks up. Are they at more risk during this preferred period?

This pioneering use of low-light cameras to document shark behaviour offers a rare opportunity for us to get a glimpse of the shark’s domain and, through the use of the live broadcast, offers us the opportunity to involve the public in these ground-breaking trials testing the myths of shark attack.

 

Aliwal Shoal: South Africa: Skye Ebden, Andy Casagrande, and Hanru Reyneke testing gear. Photo by Yvette Oosthuizen.

 

Dr. Vic Peddemors heads the shark research section of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), providing scientific leadership for the group’s research and advisory effort. He is also an associate professor in marine biology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and is a visiting fellow at the Graduate School of the Environment, Macquarie University, Sydney. Learn more about Vic Peddemors and his 25 years of scientific research experience.

Alison Walsh is Director, Digital Media, for National Geographic Channels. She loves history, space, cats, and the Oxford comma.

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