23 December 2004

Shark repellent sales leap after attack

Adelaide - Sales of shark repellents have been so strong since a teenage surfer was killed by a white pointer here last week that Australian shops are expected to run out of stock two days before Christmas, the suppliers said Wednesday.

At between AUS$500 (about R1 600) and AUS$600 a unit, sales of the "Shark Shield" were a relatively slow six-a-day before an attack in which a 29-year-old man was killed by two white pointers while surfing near Margaret river, south of Perth on July 10.

Designer and manufacturer Rod Hartley of Adelaide said sales jumped to 15 a day immediately after the Perth attack.

Sales climbed again after another fatal shark attack off Queensland's Great Barrier Reef on December 11, then after the attack off Adelaide on December 16 sales leapt to about 60 a day, a tenfold rise since the Perth attack, with many parents buying them as Christmas presents for their children.

One store alone in a West Australian country town sold 180 units - almost AUS$100 000 worth, in three months.

"Sales are so strong now that product is likely to run out by the end of today or tomorrow... and new stock, unfortunately, won't be available until early next year," Hartley told AFP.

Hartley's Adelaide-based company SeaChange developed and perfected the electronic devices from a South African design for which he acquired a world exclusive licence in 1999.

The devices, already in use by all Australian police forces and military, are currently being trialled by US military authorities.

They emit an electronic field that surrounds a swimmer or surfer handicapping special receptors on a shark's snout.

The receptors connect to the shark's central nervous system and when it first encounters the electronic field it feels some discomfort. If it proceeds the electrodes will induce muscle spasms causing the predator to flee.


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