Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Electronic Shark Deterring Devices Gain Popularity on Maui

A surge in shark attacks in Maui has spurred sales of devices, such as the Electronic Shark Defense System, that claim to keep sharks away by emitting an electric pulse.
A special device believed to prevent shark attacks through emission of electric pulses. 
The island of Maui in the state of Hawaii has experienced a rise in shark attacks over the past year, including two fatal ones, but did not prevented people from entering the warm ocean waters. It has also sparked sales of special electronic devices that are believed to keep sharks away by discharging an electric pulse. Some of these unique gadgets are the size of a bulky wristwatch, while others are as big as a wallet. They can be strapped to the users' ankles, wetsuits, or even surfboards and vary in price from $399 to $469. Some shark experts believe that these devices may help prevent attacks from sharks, but it is uncertain whether they will keep away large ones such as bull sharks, great white sharks, and tiger sharks. One of these experts who is skeptical about the gadgets is George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research. He stated that people should remember that they are taking a risk of attacks when entering shark-infested waters, with or without the devices. He further added that the only people who are eligible to need these devices are those whose jobs involve direct contact with sharks. These include people who dive for abalone or sea sponges in places where sharks are commonly seen. In addition, shark researcher Carl Meyer of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology stated that the devices may minimize the risk of a shark attack but not eradicate it, warning that no independent peer-reviewed studies have been carried out on their effectiveness.  
Rudy Aguilar models the Electronic Shark Defense System, a shark deterrent device that attaches to his ankle and surfboard, in Honolulu, Oahu.
A man modeling the electric shark repellent in Honolulu.
The surge in sales of these shark repelling devices came as there had been eight shark attacks in Maui's waters last year. Statewide, there were fourteen attacks in 2013, eleven in 2012, and three in 2011. Among the fatal incidents included the death of a German tourist, who perished a week after a shark bit off her arm in August and a man fishing on his kayak in December after a shark bit his foot that was dangling in the water. The last time anybody was killed by a shark in Hawaii was in 2004. One of the examples of the gadgets' usage was demonstrated by Sterling Kaya, owner of a Honolulu fishing supply store named Hana Pa'a Fishing Company, who stated that he used this device once while spearfishing in the Marshall Islands. He explained that sharks ate the catch attached to a float without the device, but stayed away when the device was attached to the catch. Mr. Burgess added that spearfishermen may also benefit since they dive with bloody fish that can attract sharks, but there is also a question of whether the electric pulse will scare the fish they are trying to spear.
Hot item ... Dennis O'Donnell shows the Shark Shield shark deterrent device at his Maui store.
A store owner showing the shark deterrent device in Maui.
This news is a clear demonstration of how technology plays an important role in the daily lives of people when in contact with animals. A similar example was seen in one news about a special collar which helps prevent any wolf attacks on sheep. Now, there is news about similar devices which prevent shark attacks on humans. However, it has also been found in this news that these devices had not been studied by scientists and researchers in order to understand their effectiveness. In addition, it is also unclear whether these devices are effective against attacks by great white sharks and other sharks that are infamous for claiming hundreds of lives every year. I think it is extremely important that these shark repellent devices must be closely examined by scientists, in order to see whether they are effective against attacks by large sharks. This way, everyone will know whether these devices will protect them against shark attacks or not. However, that does not mean people should stop using them as of now. It is important to note that even with these devises strapped to one's ankle, surfboard, or wetsuit, people should be aware about the risks they take when entering the ocean water. Furthermore, beaches should still be patrolled for sharks and closed upon any sightings for the safety of people going swimming or surfing.

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