Another step for surfer safety

Researchers from Macquarie University in Sydney are one step closer to new, non-invasive, shark deterrent technology.

It’s one of an innovative suite of Australian developments to keep surfers and divers safe from sharks.

Associate Professor Dr Nathan Hart said he has been testing the effectiveness of LED lights on the underside of surfboards as a shark deterrent.

“Sharks use a number of sensory systems when they’re making a decision about what something is and whether to approach it or not and what that object might be,” he said.

“We have another two years in South Africa through a research grant, so during that time we are going to try as much testing as possible and come up with as much variation as possible to iron out what works.

“We caution people from going and throwing a bunch of LED lights on their boards, as we’ve found sharks are attracted to shiny things, we don’t want to eliminate one problem yet create another.”

Shark Shield attaches to a surfboard and acts as an electric shield from sharks.

With 15 fatal shark attacks in WA since 2000, the State Government has implemented a number of shark policies to lower that number, including a rebate on Shark Shield technology.

Shark Shield CEO Lindsay Lyon said his product is the only proven electrical shark deterrent in the world that has been peer reviewed along with published scientific research from independent testing.

“The way Shark Shield works is that sharks have electrical receptors in their snout that they use to find food at very close range, this device creates a very powerful electric shield around the diver or surfer and as the shark comes towards them, their gel-filled electrical receptors overpower and spasm and it turns the shark away,” he said.

“The challenge with a new LED deterrent is how it is installed, which means you have to cut into the board or pay a couple hundred bucks to have it installed so it will be interesting how they will commercialise the product.”

The sticker used to deter sharks from attacking from up to 20m

Western Australian Shark Eyes founder Shanan Worrall said his product uses eye stickers to take the element of surprise from the shark.

“The main point of difference is we are mimicking nature and nature’s proven defence which is supported by documentation of eye spots and mimicry that goes as far back as the 1860’s,” he said.

“Electronic deterrents create a physical barrier in the last metre or so but Shark Eyes has the potential to change the animals behaviour from up to 10 to 20m away, before it goes into attack mode.

Although all three deterrents differ in theory and technology, they are one step closer to non-invasive safety for water users.

“I think anything that helps protect the environment and stops humans from killing anything that’s in their way is a great thing. I’m all for it,” said Mr Lyon from Shark Shield said.