Safety in the Surf: Cardno case study of shark deterrent Rpela v2 shows reduction in risk for surfers
We enter the ocean for leisure and recreation and every so often, for surfing. Any surfer would agree that nothing beats the thrill of being carried by the waves and feeling the sensation of the transmitted energy from wave to surfboard. But we are only visitors to the water world and must try to coexist with its inhabitants.
White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are the ocean’s fiercest predators. Sharks don’t hunt us but can occasionally bite, so how do we, as visitors or surfers of the ocean, reduce the risk of injury or fatality in the rare instances when our paths cross?
Senior Principal – Aquatic Ecology, Craig Blount, Principal – Aquatic Ecology, Dan Pygas and Senior Principal – Applied Ecology, Marcus Lincoln Smith have recently had their research published in the Journal of Marine Science and Technology, which demonstrates the effectiveness of the Rpela Version 2.0 Personal Shark Deterrent Device to help shield surfers from potential shark attacks.
This case study was carried out at Salisbury Island, Western Australia on white sharks.
Without endangering or causing harm to the species, the Rpela V2 device clips into the surfboard's bottom deck and uses an electric field to overwhelm the shark's electro-reception organs, which helps to navigate through their environment.
"Such a stimulus does not harm a shark but may encourage a shark to rapidly move away from an area or change its behaviour."
Research carried out by Craig, Dan, Marcus, Dr Daryl McPhee from Bond University, Colby Bignell from Oceanwise Australia and Ocean Ramsey from One Ocean Organization suggests the Rpela v2 significantly reduced the probability of a bite by 66 percent and reduced interaction (i.e. bite or touch) by 38 percent compared with when it was inactive.
The number of passes taken by a shark also reduced and the mean distance between the shark and the bait increased when Rpela v2 was active.
Although the Rpela v2 did not completely remove the risk of shark bite, the magnitude of the reduction in risk is of a level that surfers are likely to consider meaningful.
“It would give more time for surfers to leave the water when a potentially dangerous shark is present,” Craig Blount said.
With members from our ecology team proving a statistically significant reduction in interactions with sharks alongside other shark experts in the industry, it is safe to say that surfers will likely welcome this, and other similar devices that have also undergone rigorous testing, to their surfing kit with confidence.