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Shark deterrent sales climb on Cape Cod, as shark bite researcher says tech can save lives

12 April 2021

The sales of electronic shark deterrents have been rising in recent years along Cape Cod, surf shop owners and residents tell the Herald, as a shark bite researcher says the devices can save lives.

More people and surfers on the Cape are buying the tech — which uses an electric field to repel sharks — in the wake of the Cape’s first fatal shark attack since 1936.

“People want to get back in the water,” said Wellfleet’s Sickday surf shop owner Olaf Valli, “And people living on the Cape and visiting the Cape have decided that spending $500 on a system to decrease the risk of an interaction with a shark is well worth it.”

“We can sell them faster than we can get them,” he said, adding, “We have somebody making an order as we speak.”

There have been four attacks by white sharks on humans along the Cape since 2012.

Wearing the shark deterrent is a “comfort thing” for a lot of people, said Shawn Vecchione of Vec Surfboards in Orleans.

“People want to feel better about being in the water,” he said.

The devices can go around ankles, on surfboards and on scuba gear.

“Much more people have been wearing these over the last few years,” said Orleans resident Marc Angelillo. “It’s been growing exponentially.”

“Whether it’s 40% or 60% or 80% effective at reducing the chances of being bitten, it’s better than no percent,” added the surfer and paddleboarder.

Australian scientists recently found that electronic deterrents could save 1,063 people from getting bitten by sharks across Australia by 2066 — about 24 people a year.

The appropriate use of personal electronic deterrents could avert more than 3,000 “incidents” across Australia over the next four-plus decades, the scientists said.

“We found that thousands of people would potentially not get bitten, and several hundred people would not die,” said Flinders University Professor Corey Bradshaw, who was the lead author of the study.

“None of these devices will prevent a shark from biting you, but it reduces the probability,” he added. “It’s like dumping hot sauce on the prey, so it makes the shark think twice about biting it.”

The study was based on Ocean Guardian electronic deterrent products. The Australian government has offered $200 rebates to residents who buy these deterrent devices from the company.

Lindsay Lyon, Shark Shield CEO who’s based in Australia, compared the product to seat belts and airbags.

“We can’t guarantee it 100% saves lives in every scenario, but we know it significantly reduces the risk to help prevent serious injuries and deaths,” he said. “The research reinforces this.”

Lyon added that surfers along the Cape are using their products and several surf shops are stocking their items.

This story was originally published in the Boston Herald and can be accessed here.

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