AN $80 gizmo is promising to provide protection from some of the most feared predators of the ocean, as sightings of sharks and attacks rise across the country.
Sharkbanz — a rubber band that resembles a FitBit bracelet — uses a magnetic field to repel sharks by disrupting their electro-receptors, which they use to figure out what something is in the water.
In October, Australian under-14 girl’s surfing champion Kirra-Belle Olsson, 13, was lucky to survive after a wobbegong shark grabbed her foot and tried to pull her under at Avoca Beach, NSW.
She said that any technology used to deter shark attacks was “good for people who have a fear of sharks”.
“They would feel a lot safer in the water, and I would wear one for sure.
“If I was spearfishing or competing on reef break with lots of sharks, I would wear one.”
Sharkbanz co-owner and creator Nathan Garrison said when sharks came into contact with the device during trials, they looked ‘like [they] were going to investigate it and eat it, but then [they] bolted’.
“We did this seven to eight times in an hour, and the shark would take off, full speed, every time.”
As an ambush predator which attacks from a long distance and at high speed, the great white shark is the only species the band claims to be “ineffective” against.
According to the Australian Shark Attack File, more than a quarter of all shark attacks in Australia are fatal, with 137 fatalities recorded in the last 50 years.
In 2014, four people were killed by shark attacks, and another man, electrician Sean Pollard had his left arm and right hand bitten off while swimming at Kelpids Beach in Perth.
Surf Life Saving WA chief executive officer, Paul Andrew, said the organisation “continues to monitor with interest the development of technologies that will protect people from sharks”.
“We would certainly like to see a reduction in the interactions between sharks and ocean users given the unprecedented spate of fatal attacks over the past four years, and we see that technology will have a role to play in that.”
Sharkbanz follows another shark-repelling product called ‘Shark Shield’, a portable electronic device that emits an electromagnetic field that wards off sharks.
In 2013, a so-called “invisibility wetsuit” was launched in Australia, designed to camouflage a swimmer or diver in the sea.