Available from Australia’s SeaChange Technology, Shark Shield is targeted at anyone who loves the marine environment but is concerned about encountering sharks. It can be used by boaters, divers, windsurfers, and snorkelers, and if successful, could well turn out to be the must-have accessory for those who wish to minimize the risk of an unpleasant scrape with the ocean’s top predator.
SeaChange’s general manager, Helena Wescombe-Down, is upbeat about the prospects for Shark Shield. “The brand has no competitive brand, as the product has no competitor,” she says. “Shark Shield is the only shark deterrent product on the market. Our biggest issue is educating the market, not about our brand, but that this product is available, is needed, and does work effectively. “
The product works by generating an electrical field around the user, which is subsequently detected by an inbound shark’s sensory receptors just as soon as it swims within range. The animal is then subjected to a series of muscular spasms that quite naturally result in it being deterred from approaching any further. Visitors to the Shark Shield website can see videos of the product being tested.
Because Shark Shield doesn’t use any chemicals, it’s environmentally friendly and apparently innocuous to dolphins, seals, and other marine life. This should provide the product with a major competitive advantage given that most of the world’s beaches where shark attacks have been prevalent are now protected by mesh nets, which frequently trap and kill many other animals apart from sharks.
This view is shared by John West, a marine biologist who is responsible for the coordination of the Australian Shark Attack File. “As a conservationist,” he says, “I would welcome an electronic shark repellent as an alternative to nets, provided that it had been thoroughly tested and was a viable solution.”
Despite the obvious benefits of Shark Shield, however, Wescombe-Down is still very cognizant of the need to ensure that both the product and the brand are strongly marketed. She says, “We have been undercapitalized for quite some time and have not had the budget to spend on marketing that we would like. Hopefully this is about to change.
“Because Shark Shield has so many different market segments—boating, surfing, spear fishing, diving—different messages need to be sent,” she explains. ”We need an effective message and campaign for each market segment. In surfing for example, we hope to secure the support of the Association of Surfing Professionals and a major surfing champion.”
Although statistics say that you are more likely to be hit by lightning than attacked by a shark, there can be little doubt that a good hard jolt with a million volts of earth-bound electricity is an infinitely more preferable way to meet your maker than ending up as lunch. According to data available at the International Shark Attack File, there were 61 unprovoked shark attacks around the world in 2004; seven of these resulted in fatalities.
Wescombe-Down is quick to point out that her product’s success will very much depend upon the priorities of potential buyers. “While there is no other shark deterrent product on the market,” she says, “we do still have to compete with other products within the market segment that we are selling into. For example, if a diver has a certain amount of money to spend on equipment, he/she needs to weigh up what are the product priorities. We need to convince them that a Shark Shield is a definite must.”
Despite the obvious attraction of using primal fear as a marketing tool, Wescombe-Down retains her pragmatic stance. “It really is about educating people rather than trying to frighten them. A car with airbags, anti-lock brakes and a strong safety record is a lot more likely to sell than a model that’s frequently involved in accidents. That’s simply what we are trying to do with Shark Shield. It’s an extra piece of protection for people who love the ocean but are wary of sharks,” she concludes, pointing out that the cost is a little less than a good buoyancy control device.
So with Shark Shield’s message being prevention rather than cure, what does the future hold for the innovative brand? Well, perhaps the last word should go to shark victim Bernie Williams, who said that although his wife hadn’t banned him from diving, he would definitely be investing in a Shark Shield.