Surfpolitik
Stu Nettle

The Makers of Shark Shield Hit Back

Earlier this month the South Australian newspaper, The Advertiser, broke a story that brought into question the efficacy of electronic shark deterents. The story followed a series of tests that were carried out in South Australia and South Africa, the results of which were kept private. Using Freedom of Information laws South Australian politician, Robert Brokenshire, forced the publication of the results and an associated video. It was this information that formed the basis of the Advertiser story (which was also subsequently published on Swellnet).

Amanda Wilson is the Managing Director of Shark Shield, the company whose products were being tested and hence now being publicly questioned. She strongly disagrees with the media's interpretation of the results and spoke to Swellnet about it:

Swellnet: Dr Charlie Huveneers stated that the test results weren't disclosed as the findings may be misinterpreted by the public. Were the test results always intended to be kept private?  Amanda Wilson: The privacy of the test results is actually controlled by SafeWork SA and the South Australian Research & Development Institute (SARDI). These are the organisations that commissioned the research, carried out the research, prepared the report, and therefore own the report.

Please note that ABC News has already written several stories about the SARDI testing several months ago. The test results have also been discussed in the scientific and marine research fields. I have also advised all of our sellers/distributors around the world about the testing. So people are well aware of the testing.

We agree with Dr Charlie Huveneers comments that the public could misinterpret the results, and the recent misleading News Ltd article is a great example of this. People should have a proper understanding of electronic shark deterrent technology before they can assess the report and come to a conclusion. A Shark Shield is a life saving device so the consequences of making a decision based on misinterpreting information or reading misleading news stories or blogs etc can place lives at risk when an effective solution is available.

Unfortunately, there has already been a situation like this where a coronial enquiry found that a fatally attacked diver had access to a Shark Shield but did not wear it because they felt pressured by the dive group leader who did not believe in the product. At the end of the day the technology works, so we don't want people being misled like for example when microwave ovens were introduced. It was rumoured that they ruined food when in actual fact they didn't. Technology adoption was slowed by a myth.

Were you surprised by some of the test results or the vision in the video? The test results prove that the Shark Shield technology reduces the risk of shark attack and I think it's important to discuss the complete SARDI testing, rather than make a conclusion of a 57 page test report by viewing a very short video.

The SARDI testing comprised of three different test setups on the FREEDOM7 model Shark Shield. The tests comprised of a dynamic test where a seal decoy and a Shark Shield were towed behind a moving boat. Also a static test where a bait was suspended near a Shark Shield. And finally a test to ascertain whether a Shark Shield attracts sharks.

It should be noted that the test conditions were extreme, as a Shark Shield user would not find themselves in a similar situation, so this needs to be taken into consideration when reviewing the results. For example, with the static testing, a Shark Shield user would not find themselves in burlied water off of Neptune Island South Australia, an island known for its seal colony and shark cage diving industry, with a 6kg section of Bluefin Tuna attached to themselves. Also with the dynamic test, a Shark Shield user would not find themselves being towed behind a boat at 8 knots near Seal Island off of South Africa, which is where a large seal colony is located and also where tour operators tow seal decoys to get white sharks to breach.

Even in these extreme conditions, the Shark Shield increased the average time the static bait was take by 100% (from 122 seconds to 244 seconds). In the dynamic testing, the Shark Shield reduced the total number of breaches (16 when turned off to 0 when turned on) and surface interactions (27 when off & 2 when on).

Why do you think there was a difference between the results on tuna bait and decoy seals? The test results were different because of where the bait was located with respect to the Shark Shield's electrical field. In the static test the bait was located to the edge and/or outside the Shark Shield electrical field. In the decoy seal trials the shark had to travel "through" the field to reach the decoy, and as the research showed, it did not. Note that in the testing published in the research paper by Smit, C.F. and V. Peddemors. 2003. Estimating the probability of a shark attack when using an electric repellent. South African Statistical Journal 37: 59-78 the bait was placed in the centre of the electric field strength, these test confirmed without doubt the devices deterrent capability.

A lingering criticism of electronic devices is that they may attract inquisitive sharks. How do you counter that criticism? Have Shark Shield ever tested to see if the theory may be true? SARDI tested this theory in their recent testing and found no evidence to prove this occurs. A Shark Shield does not work by emitting a Radio Frequency signal, which people may associate with long distance communication through the air. A Shark Shield produces a localised protective electric field with a high power pulsing current that flows between two electrodes that are housed at each ends of the antenna in the SURF7 or FREEDOM7, or between the ankle and tank electrodes for the SCUBA7 model.

Sea water is a poor conductor therefore even though the Shark Shield produces a considerable protective electric field due to its high power, large distance between electrodes, and large surface area of electrodes, the field strength dramatically reduces every metre out from the source. The result is a very localised electric field.

At the end of the day a shark would detect a person in the water with its longer range senses i.e sound, smell, pressure, and vision, rather than its very close range electrical sensing.

Do you think some people have an incorrect idea of the role and also the effectiveness of Shark Shields?  Some people incorrectly think that a Shark Shield allows them to swim long periods of time with a shark. Even though other tests for example have shown a Shark Shield has repelled white sharks for the whole day of testing eg 24 x 10 minute approaches, we don't want the user to stay in a life threatening situation so we always recommend the user gets to safety once a shark is sighted.

There are a handful of people that have the mindset that if we can't guarantee our product will stop a shark in all situations then the product is no good, however we like to compare our technology to a car seatbelt, it's a proven safety solution, not a guarantee. We have many Shark Shield users that have provided positive testimonials about Shark Shields and believe that their Shark Shield has indeed saved their lives.

Comments

top-to-bottom-bells's picture
top-to-bottom-bells commented Friday, 19 Oct 2012 at 3:11pm

"HELLO!!! Has anyone thought about what this will do to the dolphins in the area? Fuck, what's wrong with these people? Dolphins are natural shark deterrents! Leave the dolphins alone! Shark Sheild is damaging the balance of nature with these electronic pulses and fucking up the nature of surfing. Retards!"

This comment was brought to you by Donna Love c/o Swellnet's Facebook page. Hope you guys dont mind me reproducing it, it was too good not to share.

thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 19 Oct 2012 at 3:21pm

As a side note, whoever glassed the fin on to that board (above) probably needs to recheck their measurements.

rat-race's picture
rat-race commented Friday, 19 Oct 2012 at 4:47pm

Its a rail fin Ben. Get with the times bro!
By the way, i was thinking the exact same thing as old love. Surely an electronic pulse (or whatever) does not completly counteract a sharks carnal nature when it smells tuna blood in the water.
Take drink driving for example, people know that it is bad for them and others yet, every saturday morning at the usual places, cars are racked up on the side of the road due to people running the gauntlet and getting pinged. Surely sharks are no different from your average human moron?

desmond-tootoo's picture
desmond-tootoo commented Friday, 19 Oct 2012 at 6:03pm

hate to rain on ya parade 'top to bottom",,but white pointers eat young dolphins ,and certainly are not afraid of them,,to much flipper watchin

top-to-bottom-bells's picture
top-to-bottom-bells commented Friday, 19 Oct 2012 at 7:50pm

I wasn't agreeing with her DT but got a kick out of the hippy hysteria. Here's Donna's latest:

"Dolphins are man's best friend in the ocean and they will protect you from sharks if you respect the ocean and the forces of nature. Dolphins are the only other creature on earth besides humans that surf for pleasure and they like to befriend surfers! They will protect you from sharks if you respect them and their environment. I do think using electronic surfboards is in fact fucking up the nature of surfing. Surfing is supposed to be a spiritual experience in the ocean and being one with the forces of nature."

g-bo's picture
g-bo commented Friday, 19 Oct 2012 at 7:57pm

This won't affect dolphins.

It's hard to see very far underwater. That's why sharks use an electric sense and dolphins use sound.

A Dolphin Shield would involve loud banging noises... And would do stuff-all to sharks....

thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 26 Oct 2012 at 4:39pm

Here's a quality shark story that'll make you think twice about paddling to that offshore bommie.

http://www.fishingkites.co.nz/sharks/greatwhitesharkattack.html

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Saturday, 27 Oct 2012 at 9:53am

Holy shit Ben that was terrifying! I could not think of a more frightening situation. But being a big floating burley trail, you can see why the shark would be interested. Fark!!
Poor bloke

rail2rail's picture
rail2rail commented Saturday, 27 Oct 2012 at 10:01am

G'day Ben. Terrific read...poor bloke!

Many, many moons ago before tracks became a glossy mag, tracks ran a story about a shark encounter that Wayne Lynch had surfing on the West Coast of Vicco with Wayne himself having written the story (from memory). It was the most gripping shark encounter that I have ever read.

Just wondering if you've seen this story or if anyone else has? It was quite unbelievable

thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Saturday, 27 Oct 2012 at 10:55am

R2R - I reckon Stu would know which mags it's in. We've got a bunch of archive mags in the office so I'll see if we can dig it up.

mick-free's picture
mick-free commented Saturday, 27 Oct 2012 at 9:30pm

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/statistics/gattack/MapZE.htm.

There is a lot of great whites (and big ones) in NZ but we don't have the fatalities that WA and SA has. Two theories food resource and water currents? A group of 5 of us were chased out of the water in Otago penisula by a great white that looked like a submerged falcon wagon.

One massive problem with shark sheild is that other people around you are then vulnerable.

Mick Free FIFOFOMO

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Sunday, 28 Oct 2012 at 7:41am

You mean you saw one and went in, if a great white was "chasing" you you wouldn't be reading this..

yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer commented Sunday, 28 Oct 2012 at 8:24am

I saw a huge white chase a surfer in and beach itself on a shallow rock shelf while the guy rode in on a wave and spider crawled across the rocks just out of its jaws.
I was standing above the scene on a small cliff and for a moment the shark was completely dry and doing this little last ditch wriggle towards him, hoping to snatch him. It then let a swell wash it back into the ocean.
It was late afternoon and the next morning I did what any keen South Oz surfer would do, I paddled out and surfed there.
Point is a shark's strike rate isn't 100% when going for prey.

The only leg Australia has to stand on.....

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Sunday, 28 Oct 2012 at 8:56am

Lucky guy Yorkesurfer! Was he back out there next morning? Ive seen two whites while surfing and had to paddle in both times as they both popped up during a lull! Point i was trying to make was a white can swim 20-30 times (maybe more) faster than you can paddle.. I think people say they were "chased" when telling a shark story as it adds a more dramatic side to it?

zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Sunday, 28 Oct 2012 at 10:59am

Yorkes, that is chilling.

Reminds of the Killer whales that beach themselves in Argentina.

Never get tired of watching that on NatGeo channel.

Ignorance is Zen

yorkessurfer's picture
yorkessurfer commented Sunday, 28 Oct 2012 at 3:07pm

Yeah he sure was a lucky guy. His two kids had just gone in on the couple of waves before. I heard the guy moved away not long after that as he didn't want his kids surfing there anymore.
Have to say I had a couple of nightmares after seeing that too!

Interesting in the NZ story above how traumatised the guy was after his brush with the shark. I met a guy from Port Lincoln who had taken that young fellow Jevon Wright surfing at Blacks when he was taken in 2000.
The guy lost his eyesight for a while not long after and after the doctors had done all sorts of tests they asked him "has anything traumatic happened in your life recently?" When he told them what had happened they told him of reports of returning soldiers after the trauma of battle losing their sight and with time his eyesight should return, which it eventually did! Heavy Shit!!

The only leg Australia has to stand on.....

thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Sunday, 28 Oct 2012 at 3:24pm

Heavy stuff YS. I heard a similar story from the Portland region, way back in the early 90's - a big shark chasing in a surfer, eventually beaching itself up on a kelpy ledge.

uplift's picture
uplift commented Sunday, 28 Oct 2012 at 4:21pm

Gidday rail2rail. That story was by Wayne Lynch surfing in SW Victoria. He and another guy were buzzed by a huge pointer, and as the other guy didn't have much of an idea, Wayne lynch suggested that they leave. They were circled and followed all the way in. From memory I think that the other guy didn't have a clue what was going on and as it was a really long paddle through deep water, and Lynch didn't want the guy to freak out and panic, he didn't tell him.

rail2rail's picture
rail2rail commented Sunday, 28 Oct 2012 at 10:56pm

Hey ya Uplift. I think that maybe there were some people standing on the cliff who had witnessed the whole thing.

I mean like, I don't wanna speak for Wayne as it's his story, but it was quite a story at that. Yeah, I remember the story as you put it and something about Wayne knowing that the shark wasn't interested in him, but more the dude who'd lost his board who Wayne was helping out.

Stuck it's head out of the water I think and eyeballed Wayne.

Anyway, Ben's attached link reminded me of the Waynew Lynch story. Heavy shit!

nopro's picture
nopro commented Wednesday, 31 Oct 2012 at 1:28am

This is bullsh*t, everyone knows microwaves ruin food! what is she talking about...

whaaaat's picture
whaaaat commented Wednesday, 31 Oct 2012 at 7:31am

Yeah, yer right!! Who cooks flake in a microwave??? What kinda cooking site is this?

the-roller's picture
the-roller commented Wednesday, 31 Oct 2012 at 10:39am
philippe-bechervaise's picture
philippe-bechervaise commented Wednesday, 31 Oct 2012 at 11:59am

Ben, I read this article:

http://www.fishingkites.co.nz/sharks/greatwhitesharkattack.html

...and felt hints of the panic he felt just reading it! Growing up in SA and learning to surf at Middleton I knew from quite a young age that sharks were out there. My dad and I always were of the mind set it is better not to know what is going on beneath you.
I've had a few hairy moments with sharks, as a youngster with a pack of Bronze Whalers at Frazer Island, a reef shark at Yorkes (i think it was a reef shark but didnt stick around to find out) and a couple of reef sharks in Indo.
I still feel its better in some ways to be naive in some ways and take only very calculated risks. In saying that I have come closer to death on the road than in the water so another part of me prefers just to block out the 'shark' thoughts and go about surfing where and when I want to surf.

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