By David Kavanagh | posted on August 22, 2019
GREAT Southern water users have claimed more than 200 government rebates for personal shark deterrent devices since 2017, with the uptake in Albany typically surging following media reports about shark attacks.
State figures released last week indicated a total 221 claims had been lodged in the region in that time and showed the seaside city ranking fourth in the top 10 locations in Western Australia utilising the $200 subsidy.
Owner of surf shop Aido’s Boardroom, Aido Shepherd, said he had sold about 40 Ocean Guardian Freedom devices, which are usually attached to surfboards to keep sharks at bay, since the program began.
“The media paint a pretty awful picture about shark attacks, which they are, but it scares people into buying things,” he said.
“Once it’s out of the news it becomes old news and people tend to say it’s fine until something happens, then the uptake will happen again.”
Mr Shepherd said he believed the “proven” devices were the best option available for dealing with sharks and that a lot of his customers were compelled to make their purchases by loved ones worried about their safety.
“Parents that are concerned for their kids, wives that are concerned for their partners. There are a whole lot of reasons why people do it and I understand why they do it,” he said.
“Obviously they want a bit of security in the water and I think it’s a wonderful initiative by the government.”
Mr Shepherd has been surfing for 50 years and said that in that time he had not had any dangerous encounters with sharks.
He said he did not use the device himself in part because it can change the weight and balance of a performance surfboard and because Albany didn’t have “too many problems” with sharks.
“Probably 99.9 per cent of the time they will swim straight past you. Yes, it’s a frightening experience but they’re not out to eat us,” he said.
“For me as a seller of these items, there’s not much money in it. For a month or two we’re actually out of pocket while we wait for the rebate … but I do it because people want it.”
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said it was pleasing to see surfers and divers in the Great Southern taking their safety seriously.
He said about a third of rebates claimed in the state were claimed in regional areas like Albany.
“Our beach culture is the best in the world and we want to continue to see people enjoy the ocean with confidence,” he said.
“Using a shark deterrent makes good sea sense for your personal safety, as is checking the SharkSmart website before you head to the beach.”
Member for Albany Peter Watson echoed Mr Kelly’s sentiments and said the devices “take the worry out of staying safe in the water”.
A total 15 people have been the victims of fatal shark attacks in WA since 2000, with 13 of those being surfers or divers.