Inside the Quest for the Shark Repellent 'Holy Grail'

'It just consumed me'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2017 6:48 PM CDT
Inside the Quest for the Shark Repellent 'Holy Grail'
So-called shark repellents are notoriously ineffective on great white sharks. But that hasn't stopped people from trying.   (Discovery Channel via AP)

"I have yet to see an anti-shark device that I, somebody who studies sharks and shark attacks, would plop down money for," ichthyologist George Burgess says. But that hasn't stopped shark experts and entrepreneurs from chasing the "holy grail" of a completely effective shark repellent, Outside reports in a story about man's quest to reduce one of nature's greatest predators to, essentially, an especially large mosquito. Take Eric Stroud, for example. The chemist got deep into shark repellents after a seeing a "Summer of the Shark" cover story in Time in 2001. "I decided to delve into it, and it just consumed me," says Stroud, who was soon conducting his own research on baby sharks in inflatable pools in his backyard.

Stroud's research inadvertently led him to what he calls "death signals," chemicals present only in the decaying tissue of dead sharks. (You can imagine how he may have stumbled onto this.) Stroud replicated the death signals into synthetic repellent—housing it in a Batman-inspired aerosol can—which he claims is effective on 30 species of sharks. “Sharks will avoid the taste or smell of it like an evolutionary cue," he says. But three entrepreneurs who bought the rights to Stroud's death signals weren't satisfied, heading to South Africa to test the repellent on the notoriously hard-to-repel great white shark. “The white is a very peculiar shark,” says the man hired to conduct the tests. “They do what they want.” Read the full story here for the results ("There are easier tests to conduct," one intern was left to bemoan).

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