The news everyone’s talking about is that the Pentagon is funding research into neural implants with the hope of turning sharks into ‘stealth spies’ capable of gliding undetected through the ocean.
The research builds on experimental work to control animals by implanting tiny electrodes in their brain, which are then stimulated to induce a behavioural response. It seems to be one of those sensationalist news that makes the headlines every other years.
“By remotely guiding the sharks’ movements they hope to transform the animals into stealth spies, perhaps capable of following vessels without being spotted,” says the report.
New Scientist mentions also that scientists are investigating the use of neural implants to control the behaviour of farmed fish. The tags will eliminate the need to pen and feed fish. Instead, the fish would forage for themselves and fisheries employees would retrieve them when they are large enough.
One way to contain the fish would be an acoustic fence that triggers the implants to deliver a warning signal to the fish’s brain, possibly by mimicking a bad smell. Barry Costa-Pierce and his team at the University of Rhode Island have developed implants that can make the fish surface on command.
However, there are legal barriers as setting tuna loose would raise the question of who owns a fish that swims in the commons of the ocean. Until governments can establish fishing regulations that take account of such implants, commercial fisheries are unlikely to take up the idea.