Electrical field could be key to deterring sharks
ELECTRICAL fields could be the key to deterring sharks and ensuring swimmer safety in the Whitsundays according to a business that have been researching the technology for nearly 20 years.
The Federal Government announced earlier this week they would commit $1 million to the Queensland Government to support nonlethal shark control measures such as near real-time alerts or drone surveillance among other safety measures.
And CEO of Ocean Guardian Shark Shield Lindsay Lyon said his technology could do just that by deterring sharks without harming them or other marine animals.
The Ocean Guardian Shark Shield is a device that can be attached to boats and surfboards as well as snorkelling and diving gear and is currently being tested in larger beach settings.
It works by creating an electrical field that triggers safe but unbearable spasms in a shark's short-range receptors that they use to find food, causing the shark to swim away.
The range of the Shark Shield varies depending on the different attachments with some devices capable of creating a 'protective swimming area' eight metres deep and six metres wide.
Mr Lyon said the technology would be perfect for the Whitsunday region and is already being used by tourism operator Whitsunday Escape Yacht Charters.
"There's zero question about how good this technology is," he said.
"It's the only technology in the world that's been proven to work, and you can scale it to protect beaches.
"There are certain areas like Hamilton Island where we could build enclosures that are effectively electric fences … and these have been tested and piloted in South Australia over the last two years."
The device's effectiveness in deterring sharks has been confirmed in several peer-reviewed research papers, and the Western Australian government subsidise the technology as part of their SharkSmart initiative.
Mr Lyon said tourism operators in the region would benefit if the Queensland government adopted a similar rebate system.
Mr Lyon was confident this would help the tourism industry through giving tourists piece of mind when snorkelling and swimming.
"The tourism industry is all about getting people confident to enjoy the ocean and the environment and go for a swim," he said.
"We all accept the risk (of a shark encounter) is extremely low, so this technology is like a seatbelt or a bicycle helmet or life jacket.
"If the charter operators are struggling to afford the products because of a decline in tourism and the government can help subsidise them, (then) why wouldn't you do it?"
The Whitsunday region is unique in that the islands and long coastlines make the installation of SMART drumlines a complicated undertaking.
Mr Lyon said this is where Ocean Guardian technology would be a perfect solution as it works with electrical fields and is flexible to the environment while also keeping other marine wildlife safe.
"The difference between our solution and eco nets is that our solution enables seals and dolphins to swim through the electric field, only sharks are deterred."
Mr Lyon said employing Ocean Guardian Shark Shield devices in the Whitsunday region should be a priority local and state governments.
"It's like trying to build a rocket and not asking NASA for help," he said.