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Marketing sharks enter the water

CHOICE says personal shark repellents can take a big bite out of your wallet and offer questionable protection

7 January 2016

Following the recent handful of shark attacks, consumer advocacy group CHOICE is warning consumers to be wary of marketing sharks spruiking personal shark repellents.

"From sprays and electric shock devices to sea-snake-like wetsuits, personal shark repellents promise a lot, and ranging from $25 to $749, they are certain to take a bite out of your wallet," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

"While these devices claim to reduce the risk of a shark attack by interfering with one of the many senses sharks use to detect their prey – either sight, smell, hearing, or a special sense that sharks have to detect electromagnetic fields – few have been independently tested to see if their claims hold water," Mr Godfrey says.

CHOICE reviewed the evidence behind personal shark deterrent devices currently on the market, finding only one had been shown to be effective in repelling sharks, and that device was only effective some of the time.

CHOICE also found no manufacturer was willing to guarantee their device would actually prevent a shark attack.

"While the websites of these devices show video footage of the devices in action and testimonials from happy customers, the reality is consumers have no idea whether the devices work or not," Mr Godfrey says.

"It's important consumers are properly informed about the devices they are purchasing to ensure they can assess the potential risks.

"Consumers using these devices also need to know their limitations, even if they have been shown to work at least some of the time.

"There's a danger with personal deterrents that increased perception of safety may lead to the users taking more risks than they normally would.

"Notwithstanding the dramatic footage of Mick Fanning escaping a shark attack in South Africa, being bitten by a shark is a very unlikely occurrence.

"There are also a number of free ways to help put your mind at rest when you enter the water and you won't have to dress like a sea snake," says Mr Godfrey.

The best ways to minimise the risk:

  • Always swim, dive or surf with other people.
  • Do not swim in dirty or turbid water, which would make it hard to see a shark approaching.
  • Avoid going in the water at dusk, dawn or at night, as many sharks are more active during these times of the day.
  • Avoid swimming or surfing around river mouths, especially after rain.
  • Do not swim with pets.
  • Be careful wading through shallow water, particularly where kelp is about, as you may accidentally step on a wobbegong shark.
  • Take off jewellery before entering the water. Jewellery reflects light in the same way fish scales do, and sharks can be attracted to the reflected light.
  • Download the Dorsal app, which provides real-time alerts on shark sightings crowd-sourced from beachgoers around the country.

Read our shark repellent reviews

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