Sounds could disguise humans in water

WA researchers hope to develop world-first technology to "mask" swimmer noises from sharks by broadcasting sounds into the water or creating masking devices for beachgoers.

Curtin University's Centre for Marine Science and Technology has been awarded a $130,000 grant through the State Government's shark hazard mitigation strategy and will investigate whether it is possible to interfere with a shark's ability to detect humans.

Lead researcher Dr Christine Erbe said the three-year project will start by characterising the noises made by swimmers, surfers and kayakers that are detectable by large shark species.

Researchers will then compare shark behaviour when the noises are detectable to when they are masked.

"If we can successfully identify a difference in behaviour, masking sounds could be broadcast into the water by speakers along WA beaches or perhaps by the development of small, personal maskers that could be used by swimmers and other water users," Dr Erbe said.

The project is a world-first and Dr Erbe said very little was known about the hearing of sharks.

"It is likely that sound is the cue used most by sharks - it is the only cue that travels fast and over long ranges underwater," Dr Erbe said.

The West Australian

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