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