A WA Government-funded study into the effectiveness of a personal shark deterrent has come up with some mixed results.

Researchers tested the Electronic Shark Defense System (ESDS) at Mossel Bay in South Africa, where there is a large population of white sharks.

The findings of this research showed that an active ESDS was no more capable of keeping sharks at a ‘safe’ distance than an inactive ESDS.

Sharks would routinely come within 20 cm of the device, whether it was active or not.

However, when in the presence of an active ESDSTM, sharks did show a reduction in biting, but, this was countered by an increase in other, less aggressive forms of interaction, such as bumping.

Given that the device is designed to be worn on a user’s ankle, it would leave most of their body completely unprotected.

“Although the effectiveness of the ESDSTM may vary between species, due to species specific differences in electroreceptive ability, the fact that white sharks are implicated in the majority of fatal incidents globally suggests that a device that cannot effectively deter this species should not be considered an effective shark deterrent,” said lead researcher, Dr Ryan Kempster.

The study is accessible here.

The university’s previous study, using the same methodology on a different device called SharkShield, found it produced an effective deterrent field an average of 1.3 metres from the device’s electrodes. It was found to prevent white sharks from interacting with a static bait 10 out of 10 times on their first approach.