The number of shark-human interactions and shark bites per capita has been increasing since the 1980s, leading to a rise in measures being developed to mitigate the risk of shark bites. Yet, many of the products commercially available for personal protection have not been scientifically tested, potentially providing an exaggerated sense of security to members of the public using them.
In this independent study completed in late 2017 and early 2018, researchers tested five shark deterrents developed for surfers (Ocean Guardian FREEDOM+ Surf, Rpela, SharkBanz bracelet, SharkBanz Modom surf leash, and Chillax Wax) by comparing the percentage of baits taken, time to take the bait, number of passes, distance to the bait, and whether a shark reaction could be observed.
A total of 297 successful trials were done at the Neptune Islands Group Marine Park in South Australia, during which 44 different white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) interacted with the bait, making a total of 1413 passes.
The effectiveness of the deterrents was variable, with the FREEDOM+ Surf affecting shark behaviour the most and reducing the percentage of bait taken from 96% (relative to the control board) to 40%. The other deterrents had limited or no measurable effect on white shark behaviour.
- In extreme conditions – chummed and baited waters – the FREEDOM+ Surf reduced the percentage of bait taken from 96% to 40%.
- Other deterrents tested had limited or no effect on white sharks.
The results of this research led to the FREEDOM+ Surf being added to the West Australian Government Shark Deterrent Rebate program. Find out more here.
Download and read the full research paper below.