The Whip Lash: Thoughts on the Shark Shield

CAKF-140031-GEAR-04_2By Paul Lebowitz

On that long-ago call I could hear the stress in Jon's voice. He was reliving blood-chilling fear. A giant tiger shark had just nosed up to the tandem he was sharing with his wife. He took it as a deadly threat. He deployed his Shark Shield. The toothy fish sank out. So far as Schwartz was concerned, he'd just saved his wife's life. I thought he'd overreacted.

The Shark Shield is a portable, waterproof electric pulse generator intended to deter sharks by aggravating their ampullae of Lorenzini—sensitive organs sharks use to detect prey. It consists of a sealed circuit board and battery unit that trails a whip-like antenna that must be submerged. It isn't large; divers comfortably wear the Freedom 7 model strapped to an ankle.

Shark Shield proudly points to scientific studies that show the product reduces the probability of a shark attack, yet offers no guarantee of one hundred percent effectiveness. These days, the company promotes it as catch insurance—tax avoidance.

Some watermen scoff at the idea of carrying an expensive Shark Shield, considering them largely a salve for jittery nerves. Although several kayak anglers have been knocked from their kayaks by sharks, there's been only one serious injury—a fatality—in the past fifteen years.

I've seen the Shark Shield in action. Once, like Schwartz, when a 15-foot tiger stalked my fishing partner, and again when an oceanic whitetip harassed Aquahunter Andy Cho. I'm convinced. Sharks dislike the sting of this lash. In sharky water, I insist Kayak Fish staff photographers use one when they swim. Otherwise I take my chances. Sharks are an integral part of the wild ocean ecosystem. I'm willing to put up with an occasional taxing. I won't think any less of you if you feel differently.

Shark Shield Freedom 7
$689; www.sharkshield.com