New Electric Barrier Repels Sharks

February 3, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. keep (something) at bay /kip æt beɪ/ (idiom) – to be safe or to be away from something
Example: Washing hands helps keep bacteria and germs at bay.

2. barrier /ˈbær i ər/ (n.) – something that blocks or prevents access
Example: The barrier was built to prevent wild animals from escaping the zoo.

3. repel /rɪˈpɛl/ (v.) – to cause something to move back or to move away
Example: Tom used a special lotion to repel mosquitos.

4. sensitive /ˈsɛn sɪ tɪv/ (adj.) – easily affected by something
Example: A dolphin’s nose is very sensitive.

5. sting /stɪŋ/ (n.) – a feeling of pain or discomfort that quickly goes away
Example: He felt a sting when he plugged the cellphone charger.


Read the text below.
South African researchers have developed a way to keep sharks at bay by using an electrical barrier.

Experts from KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board came up with a new method to repel sharks by using a cable that emits electric current. Traditional shark barriers include nets and traps that can cause death among sea creatures. Researchers have started the five-month experiment in Glencairn [glen-kairn] beach, Cape Town.

Sharks are very sensitive to electrical current because of the special pores around their nose. These pores help them sense electromagnetic fields and temperatures. The barrier is made of low-power electronic field. Sharks that swim close to it will experience a minor shock enough to drive them away. On another note, other fish will not feel the electrical current and a person who touches the electrode will only feel a sting.

The researchers also invented a portable electronic device called “shark pod.” It emits an electromagnetic field while in the water. The device is attached to a body part and is commonly used by divers and surfers to repel sharks.

According to KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board's technology specialist Paul von Blerk, the government and environmentalists are in full support of the project. He added that this action was a result of the board’s attempt to provide an environment-friendly way of keeping humans and sharks safe.

Researchers said they chose to have the experiment at Glencairn because of the high number of sharks that swim in the area. The bay’s clear water also helps the researchers monitor the sharks’ movements.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What is your opinion about using electricity to repel sharks? Please explain your answer.
·         Do you feel safe if that barrier is available in your country’s beaches? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         How else can we ensure safety against attacks of wild animals?
·         What is your opinion about the humans’ killing of wild animals such as sharks? 

February 3, 2015