University of Western Australia Releases Results of Research and Field Tests of Shark Shield Devices

Posted on , Last Updated

In July 2016, the University of Western Australia (UWA) released the results of field tests conducted during 2014 at Mossel Bay in South Africa on the effectiveness and technology of the Shark Shield Freedom 7 personal shark deterrent device. Mossel Bay has a notorious reputation - accounting for one of the highest concentrations of the great white shark to be found anywhere in the world. Researchers from UWA, Macquarie University, Flinders University and Oceans Research in South Africa jointly conducted the field tests. The results of these field tests emphatically conclude that both the technology behind the device and the device itself combine to deliver a highly effective shark deterrent. Moreover, according to the report, the tests showed that the Shark Shield Freedom 7 was the most effective such device available in world.

Whether it is accounted for by global warming, more people pursuing water sport activities or sharks just getting more brazen, the incidence of shark attacks around Australia continues to increase. And although the incidence of such attacks seem to mostly involve surfers, yacht owners too have been warned by yacht clubs and various authorities to be cautious – particularly for example when jumping over the side to clean the boat’s underwater areas. In this regard the Shark Shield Freedom 7 provides the best known and scientifically validated protection. Simply strapped to the wearer’s ankle and then switched on when once in the water, the Shark Shield Freedom 7 produces an electronic field that predatory sharks, in most situations, shy away from.

Shark Shield is an Australian company that has developed a range of shark deterrent products based on technology originally developed in South Africa in the 1990s. Like Australia, South Africa is well known for its great white sharks and the menace they pose to swimmers. Since 1958, the country has recorded over 350 attacks about 100 of which (nearly 30%) were fatal. The province of KwaZulu-Natal accounted for nearly 50% of these attacks but about two thirds of all fatalities. With its prosperity heavily dependant on a thriving tourist industry, these were statistics KwaZulu-Natal could not afford to ignore. So, through its Natal Sharks Board, an entity specifically established to deal with the shark attack problem, it commissioned South African scientists to research the matter.

Through their research, scientists discovered that certain electronic waveforms repelled sharks - detected through their sensory receptors located on their snouts and known as Ampullae of Lorenzini. These very small receptors sense the small electric currents of prey from very small distances. What was discovered however is that particular electrical waveforms over stimulate these receptors causing the shark to experience uncontrollable muscular spasms and, in most cases, to quickly vacate the scene – disappointed perhaps but not harmed! The results of this research quickly led to the development of a product known as a Shark Protective Oceanic Device or Shark POD as it became known. Unfortunately, the early versions of this device produced by a joint venture company partly owned by the South African Government and the Natal Sharks Board were both bulky and expensive. By 2001, production of the device in South Africa ceased.

Recognising a significant opportunity, the founders of a South Australian company styled SeaChange Technology Pty Ltd (now Shark Shield Pty Ltd) negotiated an exclusive world wide licensing agreement with the Natal Shark Board to utilise this unique technology to produce a range of shark deterrent products. The first of these was a device to protect divers and was launched in 2002. But since then the range of products available has expanded to include those for use by swimmers, surfers and snorkelers. The most popular devices are about the size of a couple of mobile phones, powered by rechargeable lithium iron batteries, can be strapped to an ankle or the back of a surf board and cost about $700. Such devices can be purchased directly from Arnold’s Boat Shop – click on the following link: