A wetsuit, which scientists and designers have said can confuse a shark's vision by rendering the wearer invisible or inedible has been launched in Western Australia.
Scientists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) Oceans Institute collaborated with designers from Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS) to construct a specifically patterned wetsuit which claims to lower a shark's visual acuity and confuse its senses.
"The most important factor of their senses that they use in the last few seconds before attack, is their sight, so the systems that we've developed, the technology we've developed, has created confusion for their sight sense so that's really what the technology is about," said Craig Anderson of SAMS.
One of the designs, a stripy high-contrast black and white, repels the shark by making the wearer seem unpalatable. The other, a blue and grey wave pattern, resembles the natural patterns of the ocean.
"The strategies are two-fold. One is a 'can't see me' strategy, cryptic in the water, and the other one is a 'can see me but don't eat me' strategy, the idea being that even though you are perceived, you are not perceived as a meal," said SAMS' Hamish Jolly, who initiated the project following a spate of fatal shark attacks along the WA coast.
A combined study from scientists at UWA and University of Queensland found in 2011 that sharks are colour-blind and can only see in shades of grey.
The wetsuits were field tested with dummy torsos amongst tiger sharks off the coast of Western Australia.
"In all my time in the wetsuit business over 20 years the most common thing we get asked is 'what colour do sharks like? I don't want to look like a seal.' Well, now we know the answer to that question and that is pretty exciting," said Bob Lushey of Radiator Wetsuits.
Australia is a well-known danger zone for shark attacks, and Western Australia has had five fatal shark attacks in the last 12 months - a spate well above the average of one fatality a year.
"It's about the user or the water user being able to confidently able to go back into the ocean knowing that they have an extra level of protection that they are wearing," said Anderson.
SAMS has a disclaimer on their website noting that the repelling technology is decreased under reduced light and murky water.
The company says although they do not claim the suits provide fail-safe protection against shark attacks, results from initial testing of the wetsuits in the ocean with wild sharks had been 'extraordinary'.
Presented by Adam Justice