The World Wildlife Fund has launched a campaign to see if fishermen can attach magnets to their hooks to avoid accidentally capturing sharks, which are reportedly able to detect — and presumably avoid — magnetic fields.
The idea is part of the WWF's ongoing campaign to promote selective fishing, in which fishermen avoid catching species they're not after. While such animals are frequently thrown back into the sea, they usually die of the injuries they receive in the process.
"The WWF is constantly looking for practical solutions to allow intelligent fishing, by being more selective about the species sought," said Moises Mug, who heads up the group's fisheries programs for Latin America.
Researcher Michael Herrmann, a partner in a New Jersey company called SharkDefense, proposed the idea as part of a contest for selective fishing ideas.
Studies suggest that some species of sharks not only detect, but are repelled by, magnetic fields, the organization said in a press statement. Trials of the idea will be carried out, with funding from the WWF.
Fishing boats, especially those known as long-liners, target commercially valuable species such as tuna by trailing lines with thousands of baited hooks.
But such practices also affect shark populations. Some species, like the hammerhead shark, have experienced sharp declines in Atlantic waters in recent years.