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May 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Sales of “Shark Shields” Soar in Australia

from the May, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

After a spate of shark attacks in the New South Wales region (five so far this year, compared to eight for all of 2008), sales of an electronic repellant device called Shark Shield are booming all over Australia. Paul Lunn, co-founder of Shark Shield maker SeaChange Technology in Adelaide, told Undercurrent that sales have increased by 50 percent, and he has seen a 200 percent increase in inquiries so far this year from Australian dive and surf shops.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian police nationwide have now implemented a mandatory-use policy for their dive teams to use Shark Shield. That may be due in part to the fact that one recent victim was Navy diver Paul de Gelder, who lost an arm and a leg after being attacked on February 11, presumably by a bull shark, during a training exercise in Sydney Harbour.

Shark Shield generates an electrical field, or a “shark-safe zone,” 25 feet in diameter around the diver. Electrodes generate a pulsing sensation detected by the shark through its sensory receptors, and create muscular spasms that send the shark fleeing but cause no lasting effect. There’s also a specific model for divers called Shark Shield Scuba7; one electrode fits to the ankle in a neoprene pouch and the other is Velcroed to the tank (wearing a full wetsuit is recommended). Once the antennas are underwater, the electrodes emit the protective field. List price is $670.

While most of the reported attacks have occurred around the Sydney area and only a couple were divers, Lunn reports most orders have come from the recreational dive area, which is mostly located near the Great Barrier Reef. “When we first marketed to the Australian dive market, we had difficulty because dive shop owners believed we were highlighting a negative issue. Now that dive shops have had courses cancelled, many now promote that they use Shark Shields during dive training.” Lunn’s company will start marketing Shark Shields in California and Florida this year; a list of U.S. retailers is available at www.sharkshield.com.

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