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Shark-repelling devices sell out despite doubts of effectiveness

By Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:26 a.m. HST, Jan 25, 2014


KIHEI, Hawaii » A surge in shark attacks on Maui over the past year, including two fatal ones, hasn't stopped people from surfing and swimming in the warm ocean waters that surround the Hawaiian Island.

But it has spurred sales of devices that claim to keep sharks away by emitting an electrical pulse.

"They just cannot make these things fast enough," said Hawaiian Island Surf & Sport owner Dennis O'Donnell, who keeps a waiting list for the products and sells out as soon as he's restocked.

Users strap the devices to their ankles, wet suits or surfboards. Some are about the size of an oversize watch, others the size of a wallet. They range in price from $399 to $649.

Some shark experts say the devices may help in some cases, but it's questionable whether they'll repel large sharks.

The sales spike comes as there have been eight shark attacks in Maui waters last year. Statewide there were 14 attacks in 2013. There were 11 attacks in Hawaii in 2012 and three the year before.

In August a German tourist died a week after a shark bit off her arm. In December a man fishing on his kayak died after a shark bit his foot that was dangling in the water.

The last time anybody was killed by a shark in Hawaii waters was in 2004.

Sterling Kaya, owner of the Hono­lulu fishing supply store Hana Pa‘a Fishing Co., said he used a device once while spearfishing in the Marshall Islands.

Without it, sharks ate the catch he and his fellow fishermen strung to a float while they fished, Kaya said. But the sharks stayed away when they attached the device to their catch.

Carl Meyer, a shark researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, said the devices may reduce the risk of a shark bite but will not eliminate it, cautioning that no independent, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted on their effectiveness.

Burgess said the only people who would need one of the devices are those whose jobs put them regularly in direct contact with sharks.

Spear fishermen may also benefit as they are diving with bloody fish that can attract sharks. But there's still a question of whether the electrical field released by the device will deter the fish they're trying to spear, George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, said.

Burgess is also skeptical whether the devices will effectively deter large sharks that tend to be the types involved in fatal attacks on humans — like tiger, white or bull sharks.

Even so, he noted the odds of getting bitten by a shark are tiny. People are much more likely to drown or have a heart attack in the water than be attacked by a shark, he said.






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eoe wrote:
Complete rubbish. But completely typical of Hawaii - all mana'o no 'ike.
on January 25,2014 | 02:19AM
manakuke wrote:
Something is better than nothing; a shark bite can put a damper on anyone’s day.
on January 25,2014 | 05:15AM
Wazdat wrote:
These do not work, people please use some common sense.
on January 25,2014 | 05:38AM
Slow wrote:
Read the article. Guy said it worked. What is common sense? Shooting off your mouth without reading or just staying out of the ocean. Or perhaps you have the sensible solution. Please share your wisdom.
on January 25,2014 | 06:35AM
soundofreason wrote:
I've been using an elephant whistle for years now to keep elephants away. But do I get any thanks? NOOOOO. (Just pulling your chain)
on January 25,2014 | 07:50AM
sjean wrote:
Anecdotal evidence does not make it an absolute.
on January 25,2014 | 01:45PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Lawyers on Maui probably are lining up to represent the first person to be bitten by a shark while wearing a shark-repelling device. The law suit against the manufacturer and seller will allege false advertising or defective product and the manufacturer and seller will claim insanity as a defense. In the end, the court will find that the person who’s really insane is the one who wore the device believing it would protect him or her from a shark attack.
on January 25,2014 | 12:18PM
sjean wrote:
I wonder if it works when the vog is heavy? They can blame it's failure on the vog.
on January 25,2014 | 01:45PM
eoe wrote:
Or they will claim "Radiation in the water" made it not work
on January 25,2014 | 02:41PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Lawyers on Maui probably are lining up to represent the first person to be bitten by a shark while wearing a shark-repelling device. The law suit against the manufacturer and seller will allege false advertising or defective product and the manufacturer and seller will claim insanity as a defense. In the end, the court will find that the person who’s really insane is the one who wore the device believing it would protect him or her from a shark attack.
on January 25,2014 | 12:31PM
jomama wrote:
while your at it you can return your magnet bracelets and dopey Phiten gear
on January 25,2014 | 06:42PM
Pocho wrote:
Price gouging for some probably cheap electronics. Supply and Demand though
on January 25,2014 | 06:31AM
RYMATS wrote:
Compared to the number of people who swim and play in the ocean, shark bites are 'miniscule'. But if you ask the people who actually get bit the percentage is 100%, including the dead ones who can't say. This comparison example set by shark enthusiasts and the State is only intended to justify their lack of action. An obvious comparison of apples to oranges example. To the victims and family, remedial actions are far over due. BUT, since they only represent a 'miniscule percentage' of the total number of ocean swimmers, action is not justified.
on January 25,2014 | 07:37AM
soundofreason wrote:
"People are much more likely to drown or have a heart attack in the water than be attacked by a shark, he said." >>Unless of course the shark bite causes the panic that causes the heart attack that causes you to drown. HATE when that happens.
on January 25,2014 | 07:53AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Breaking News. Lawyers on Maui are lining up to represent the first person to be bitten by a shark while wearing a shark-repelling device. The law suit against the manufacturer and seller will allege false advertising or defective product and the manufacturer and seller will claim insanity as a defense. In the end, the court will find that the person who’s really insane is the one who wore the device believing it would protect him or her from a shark attack.
on January 25,2014 | 08:05AM
Ronin006 wrote:
The above comment was first sent for approval, and I did not even mention Obama's name..
on January 25,2014 | 12:33PM
MELS4801 wrote:
Why not test them out? Wear one while going shark cage diving.
on January 25,2014 | 08:42AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Breaking News. Lawyers on Maui are lining up to represent the first person to be bitten by a shark while wearing a shark-repelling device. The law suit against the manufacturer and seller will allege false advertising or defective product and the manufacturer and seller will claim insanity as a defense. In the end, the court will find that the person who’s really insane is the one who wore the device believing it would protect him or her from a shark attack.
on January 25,2014 | 12:17PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
So my new iPhone app that recreates the sound of fat turtles burping is probably not going to be a big seller.
on January 25,2014 | 04:16PM
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