Few surfers take shark shield rebate

Saskia AdystiAlbany Advertiser

Of the 750 West Australians who received the $200 rebate to purchase a shark deterrent device, there are only nine surfers who have applied for the rebate.

The State Government is currently reviewing a shark deterrent device tailored for surfers, with the current approved device best suited only to divers, snorkellers and kayakers.

The rebate scheme was introduced in May when the State Government offered 1000 rebates to protect those who are most at risk of shark attacks.

As of September, only 13 people in Albany had applied for the rebate.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said the Shark Shield Freedom 7 — the only approved device made available by the State Government — was an effective deterrent for divers and surfers.

But Albany Surfing Mums member Karina Mitchell said the device often gave her problems when surfing.

“Because of the drag and the weight through water, it can cause restriction when surfing, especially in small waves,” Ms Mitchell said.

“You have to attach the device to your ankle and, because the device antennae are quite long, it can actually wrap around your body and legs and cause you a little shock.

“So whenever I got wiped out and I’m under water, I could easily get caught with the antennae and it sends a slight jolt.”

Ms Mitchell said many surfers prefer to use another device that came from the same brand called Shark Shield FREEDOM+.

Surfers can easily attach the device to their surfboard to create a powerful three-dimensional electrical field that will turn sharks away, including great whites.

“With this new device I don’t notice any drags or restriction when I’m in my surfboard,” Ms Mitchell said.

“It just gives me complete peace of mind when I’m out surfing.

“If the technology is out there, we might as well be using it to keep enjoying what we love doing.”

Minister Kelly said that his department was aware of a number of other devices that were marketed specifically at surfers and were being independently tested.

“These devices were not tested in the original group done by the University of Western Australia in 2016,” he said.

“If these devices are found to be effective they will be considered for inclusion in the subsidy program.”

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