© 2014 International Society of Zoological Sciences, Institute of Zoology/Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd. Despite over 70 years of research on shark repellents, few practical and reliable solutions to prevent shark attacks on humans or reduce shark bycatch and depredation in commercial fisheries have been developed. In large part, this deficiency stems from a lack of fundamental knowledge of the sensory cues that drive predatory behavior in sharks. However, the widespread use of shark repellents is also hampered by the physical constraints and technical or logistical difficulties of deploying substances or devices in an open-water marine environment to prevent an unpredictable interaction with a complex animal. Here, we summarize the key attributes of the various sensory systems of sharks and highlight residual knowledge gaps that are relevant to the development of effective shark repellents. We also review the most recent advances in shark repellent technology within the broader historical context of research on shark repellents and shark sensory systems. We conclude with suggestions for future research that may enhance the efficacy of shark repellent devices, in particular, the continued need for basic research on shark sensory biology and the use of a multi-sensory approach when developing or deploying shark repellent technology.