One of the things that scares almost anyone about the ocean is the presence of sharks. Despite the fact that shark attacks are relatively uncommon, it’s a longing fear that you will get eaten by a shark in the middle of the ocean.
Product manufacturers for Shark Sheild have created a device called Freedom 7, which is essentially a wearable compact electric field device that can deter the presence of sharks. It can be had for $649 and can be worn on the leg or arm of SCUBA divers who want to mitigate the risk of deadly shark encounters.
Similar equipment has been available commercially since the 90’s and it’s been under development for some time for personal use, so how well does this kind of equipment work for the average simple-soul who wants to go SCUBA diving for fun?
In a paper available on PLOS ONE, researchers studied the effectiveness of the device, which can create essentially a 1-meter low-frequency electric force field. An underwater camera was placed near the device for the observation half of the experiment.
In the testing, scientists lured great white sharks near the electric field device with tasty treats, and once the device was switched on, sharks thought twice about even coming anywhere near the bait.
The first trial was very effective, and deterred 10 out of 10 sharks. In additional trials, the sharks learned tolerance and soon the device was found to deter 9 out of 10 sharks, which is still a 90% success rate.
The deterrent was effective even against sharks when something tasty was easily detectable in the water, which means that for SCUBA divers, which don’t really emit any kinds of ‘tasty’ scents under water, the device should prove relatively effective as a shark deterrent.
"Thanks to this research, we now know the exact electric field characteristics that will deter a white shark, but the success of the Shark Shield does not imply that other electric devices on the market will also be effective," lead researcher Ryan Kempster told Gizmag.
"In fact, not only may other devices not be as effective, but there is also the possibility that some devices may in fact attract sharks. As a result, we feel it is important that robust, scientific and independent evaluation of all shark deterrent devices, many of which are entering the market presently, is carried out so that the public can make more informed decisions about how they can reduce their risk of a negative interaction with a shark."
One thing that’s unknown is whether or not the device works across the species spectrum of sharks, or if it is only effective against the great white species in general. Nevertheless, if it decreases your chance of getting eaten by sharks by up to 90%, then it’s probably worth the investment.
It’s worth noting also that although Shark Shield may be an effective deterrent, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other market knock-offs are going to work too. In this case, the brand name Shark Shield works as advertised, but other companies’ competing products many not have been subjected to the same testing.