A leading Australian shark expert has called on the Federal Government to regulate individual shark deterrents, as the prevalence of untested devices on the market continues to increase on the back of a spate of unprovoked shark bites in northern New South Wales.
Bond University Associate Professor of Environmental Management and Planning and shark researcher, Dr Daryl McPhee, said the untested devices potentially gave beach goers a false sense of security, which could see them put themselves in harm's way.
Dr McPhee said while a number of available products had been the subject of independent and rigorous testing, such as the electronic Shark Shield for divers, a flood of new devices were hitting the market that had not.
"A number of manufacturers are making self-claims on the effectiveness of these products that is unlikely to be supported by independent scientific study," he said.
"Simply going swimming or surfing and not being bitten by a shark does not mean that a device works.
"The probability of being bitten by a shark is extremely low, but the false confidence ineffective devices provide could actually see people putting themselves at greater personal risk, rather than adding an additional layer of protection."
Dr McPhee said designing an effective deterrent relied on an in-depth understanding of sharks, including how they sense the world and respond to various stimuli.
"Developing an effective product is extremely complex and requires sound knowledge of shark behaviour, along with extensive testing," he said.
"Personally, I am not a fan of over-regulation by the Government, but we have reached the stage where a Federal agency such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) need to step in and take action on this matter.
"The Government has a responsibility to ensure consumers are getting what they paid for."
Dr McPhee said the best thing water users could do was take individual responsibility for their own safety.
"If you're heading to the beach this summer, listen to the advice of experts," he said.
"There's a few simple rules that you should abide by, such as steering clear of swimming in canals, avoiding beaches near river mouths, particularly after rain, and avoiding swimming in areas where large schools of baitfish are present.
"The best thing water users can do is swim between the flags and obey lifeguard instructions.
"Those who are considering using a deterrent need to look at devices that are independently tested and should steer clear of manufacturer self-claims, where no relevant testing has been undertaken."