Scientists from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have performed a world-first by releasing results of the first in-field tests of the controversial Shark Shield shark deterrent technology.
The team of UWA researchers tested the device in South Africa, with the device successfully deterred sharks from a static bait nine out of ten times.
Lead researcher Ryan Kempster said the results prove the technology works, and it would be equally as effective on the Mandurah coast line.
“What our research shows is that the sensory organs in white predatory sharks off the WA and South African coast are the same, so we’re confident the device would be as effective in places with previously recorded shark attacks in Western Australia, like in Falcon,” he said.
“The device works by emitting an electrical current into the water, which affects the shark’s sensory organs.”
Dr Kempster said the device had an effective range of about 1.3 metres, and said while the results weren’t perfect, they showed Shark Shield was the most effective shark deterrent device on the market.
Dr Kempster said only one white shark interacted with the static bait in the presence of an active Shark Shield, and this only occurred after multiple approaches to the device.
“Although the effectiveness of the Shark Shield likely varies between species, the fact that white sharks are implicated in the majority of fatal incidents globally suggests that a deterrent that effectively deters this species should be an important safety consideration for ocean users,” Dr Kempster said.
“The research found no evidence that the Shark Shield attracted sharks from a greater distance, which is a common sentiment shared by surfers, and showed that the Shark Shield can reduce white shark interactions.”
Shark Shield managing director Lindsay Lyon said the research proved the device’s effectiveness, and would hopefully quell misinformation about the product.
“One of the biggest obstacles we’ve had in bringing the shield to market is the apparent idea that it attracts sharks, and this has been going on for about ten years or so,” he said.
“Especially in the South West of Western Australia – where there is a history of white shark attacks – there is a lot of worry about what might attract them, and unfortunately there are rumours the Shark Shield may attract them.
“It's just not true, and these tests show sharks will do anything in their abilities to get away from them.”
Mr Lyon said now the technology has been scientifically tested, and with the technology involved getting smaller with new prototypes, there was room for the product to become more widespread in WA’s surfing and diving hotspots.
“The device that was tested isn’t too encumbering for a diver, but for surfers it’s pretty unergonomic,” he said.
“It’s not an Ipod, But the new device is smaller, can be placed around the board, and is easy to use.
“And just imagine, with 20 or so surfers out there, all with a Shark Shield, you'd effectively be setting up an electrical network. It’s a small price to pay for that piece of mind, I think.”