Shark Alternatives

Reporter: Cassie Silver

It's the debate that's divided WA, "if you speak to 100 people you're going to have 100 different opinions."

Some argue we're in their territory, others say culling is the key. Either way the battle at the beach isn't going to be solved overnight.

Fishing writer Jamie Chester has watched WA get caught up in the hype, "once you get that sort of religious feel behind things it's not about reasons anymore it's about beliefs."

We watched thousands gather on Cottesloe beach slamming the Governments culling campaign but Jamie takes a much dimmer view. "I guess that people are quite emotionally attached to sharks these days I don't think it makes any moral sense people are attached to them."

The Marine Biologist has clocked up more hours in the ocean than he has dry land. Describing the Great White Shark as a mega fauna.

As opinions and comments collide Jamie says we can all agree on one thing we want to be safe when we swim. "Where there would be 150 people swimming first thing in the morning maybe there's a handful these days."

The State Government have launched the "Shark Smart" website and app- the ultimate online Q and A guide to get us back in the water. "Education doesn't hurt there are certainly things you can do to avoid shark attack, the time of year you swim in the water, how far out you are is obviously is a fact as well" The website gives beachgoers simple tips to reduce the risk, logging sightings and the science behind them.

"I think this is a brilliant initiative by the government to try and get people to think about sharks and the ocean environment in general and prepare you for when you want to go use the ocean." Research Professor at UWA Nathan Hart says the site separates fact from fiction.

"There are some common myths about being attracted to urine or sweat and those are shown in the past to not be the case, sharks are colour-blind, so they share this with whales and dolphins and seals. So it doesn't really matter what colour you wear."

Nathan spends his day here, at the School of Biology and The Ocean's Institute studying the creature that's caused all the controversy, "we are actually funded by the state government to look at the reasons why sharks might attack people."

Half way through their research, Nathan says shark repellents are an option they are testing, "lots of ways to avoid negative interactions with sharks and the use of repellents is just one way to do that."

"We need to find alternatives, we need to find solutions and our company is one of those trying to find a solution." Lindsay Lyon from Shark Shield says his products are deterring danger. "So when they get within the range of the shark shield product and the electric feel those gelful sacks spasm quite violently and it will flee the area" Fitted around divers ankles or in a surfboard, the device sends out an electric impulse when a shark comes with 4-6 metres. "The same as us walking up to a very very loud siren its hurts our ear drums and we have to leave the area so it's a similar effect, the bigger the shark in our case the more it affects them the more sensitive are their gel filled sacks."

The devices are giving surfers and divers piece of mind in the ocean and the team have received a $300,000 grant from the State Government and are working with the CSIRO to improve the range. "If you can minimise those risks through training or new equipment and items that will improve the safety of that activity then you should take them up"

Shark sensory wetsuits are also on the market, making it hard for predators to spot the wearer underwater. We're a location loved for our sand and our surf, Lindsay says "when you take up a sport you consider the risks of that sport if you do sky diving you understand the risks. If you go surfing you understand the risks"

Now our beaches are on the map for all the wrong reasons, Nathan says "it's really important to remember the risk of a negative interaction with a shark is extremely low and you should enjoy the water and not worry about it"

Further details

Shark Smart

www.sharksmart.com.au

Shark Shield

www.sharkshield.com