By Darren Coyne
Has the private company Shark Shield found the holy grail of shark deterrents? A device not just effective for a few metres, but for around a 100 metres?
Ballina’s mayor David Wright is excited, and hoping that’s the case.
With growing concern at the number of non-target species being caught by the NSW Department of Primary Industries shark net trials on Ballina beaches, Cr Wright has a dilemma.
On one hand, he is happy that tourists have flocked back to Ballina during the recent school holidays, no doubt feeling safer in the knowledge they had less of a chance of encountering a shark (despite the nets only being in the water for 16 days of the month).
On the other hand, the latest by-catch statistics show yet another of Ballina’s beloved bottlenose dolphins died in the nets …along with stingrays, turtles and all manner of sea creatures including ‘non-target’ shark species.
It’s not a good look.
But imagine a device, floating on a buoy out at sea, which effectively repulsed any shark that came within cooee of it! Now that would be a game-changer, and the mayor knows it.
That’s why yesterday he was locked in talks with DPI, and private company Shark Shield.
The company’s CEO Lindsay Lyon later confirmed to Echonetdaily that research has been underway for some time into a device able to transmit electro-magnetic fields through the water.
‘We know sharks react to electro-magnetic fields and we’ve worked with a physicist from France, who is also a biologist,’ Mr Lyon said.
‘We have been able to create a significantly larger electro-magnetic field … which provides a significantly longer range to repel sharks.
‘It’s taken 20 years for people to believe that shark shields work yet Western Australia’s new Labor government is implementing a $200 cash rebate for consumers to buy shark shields … because it works.
‘These are safety products that are proved. The surf version is $599, so in WA that would cost $399, and $749 for the dive version.
Mr Lyon believes the new technology has the potential to remove shark nets from the ocean completely.
He also believes Lighthouse Beach, near North Wall, could be a good trial site, or indeed any of the beaches along the north coast.
‘We just need someone interested in putting it in,’ he said.
Arguing the merits of a product he obviously wants to sell to the NSW Government, Mr Lyon suggested the Queensland Government may also be interested.
‘If I was the Gold Coast mayor I wouldn’t want to be pulling in the nets until I was 100 per cent sure that the tourists will be safe.’
He said, however, that if the devices were installed along Queensland’s heavily-netted coastline, the expected reduction in the annual number of sharks killed in the nets would show whether the devices were successful.
So how much?
He didn’t say, as negotiations are continuing.