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Could A Magnet Keep Great White Sharks Away From Our Beaches?

TRURO (CBS) - What if we could find a shark repellent that works as well as bug spray? This month's shark attack in Truro has swimmers and scientists alike asking that question.

Dr. Craig O'Connell, who spent years researching different types of shark repellents at UMass Dartmouth, thinks he's come up with a promising lead: magnets.

"These animals have a very unique electro-sensory system," he said.

O'Connell shared video with WBZ-TV, which he recorded as he tested his theory in the Bahamas.

shark magnet repellent
Sharks turned away to avoid the magnet even though bait was buried under it. (Image credit: Dr. Craig O'Connell)

First, he buried bait under a high-powered magnet on the ocean floor. The video shows different kinds of sharks approaching, then quickly turning to avoid the magnet, and swimming away. He then built a barrier embedding the magnets into PVC pipes with bait on the other side.

"I put 20 pounds of tuna," said O'Connell.

Video shows multiple sharks approaching and avoiding the magnets.

"We had about 63 great whites trying to get through the barrier to the bait. They never did. They just circled the barrier over and over again," he said.

A sign warns people of shark sightings at Longnook Beach in Truro. (WBZ-TV)

With daily shark sightings forcing beaches on Cape Cod to close, O'Connell now wants to test his magnetic barrier on the Cape.

"Because of the placement of the sharks and because there are a lot of people in the water, I think it would be a really great place to test out," he said.

The state's shark biologist, Greg Skomal, said he's open to testing in Massachusetts, but questions how it would hold up to the rough surf.

"The challenge is deployment. Can it withstand swells? The Outer Cape is extremely dynamic. Anchoring and maintaining could become difficult," Skomal said.

Researchers continue to develop other types of shark repellents, including underwater spray, and bracelets that emit electronic waves. The jury is still out on their effectiveness.

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