Oct 11, 2022 | Australian Financial Review
Ocean Guardian chief executive Lindsay Lyon wants to make shark nets and drum lines obsolete in Australia, where attacks on opposite sides of the country in the past week are a reminder of the danger posed to surfers and divers.
The company has taken its personal shark deterrent technology and made it whole-of-beach scale as it tenders for work protecting swimmers in Australia and around the world.
Ocean Guardian installed a 365-metre long electric barrier around a beach in the Bahamas in August and has just won a contract to protect a private resort in the Gulf of Oman.
Mr Lyon said Ocean Guardian was also vying for a five-year contract to protect Coogee beach in Western Australia using the electric field-based barrier.
The move into whole-of-beach barriers comes with NSW set to follow the lead of WA by introducing a rebate on approved personal shark deterrents.
Ocean Guardian has sold more than 7000 personal devices since the WA government gave its personal deterrents a stamp of approval and started offering $200 rebates on purchases after a spate of fatal attacks on divers and surfers.
Queensland is also considering a rebate scheme on personal deterrent devices in what Mr Lyon sees as a growing realisation, backed by peer reviewed trials, that the technology can save lives.
NSW has allocated more than $80 million over the next three years to reduce the risk of shark attacks.
In WA, where thousands protested against a drum line catch-and-kill policy for big sharks introduced in 2014 by then Barnett government, rebates have cost a fraction of that amount over the past five years.
The recent Cardno report into shark protection commissioned by the NSW government recommends offering a rebate on approved personal shark deterrent devices.
Mr Lyon said the Ocean Guardian products, which create an electrical field that interferes with sharks’ electrical receptors, provided an environmentally sound and ethical solution to reducing the risk of shark attack.
“The conversation needs to shift to taking personal responsibility for your own safety, the same as you wear a helmet for trail bike riding, or wear safety equipment in other sports,” he said.
“The research is conclusive, proven personal shark deterrents save lives. There is some progress with state governments around Australia, particularly in WA where support has grown for deterrents via a rebate scheme.”
Mr Lyon said the WA rebates had been important to Ocean Guardian’s growth, with the government backing giving consumers confidence in the technology.
Ocean Guardian has been around for 20 years but changed its name from Shark Shield in an attempt to separate itself from a slew of companies all with shark in their names that started marketing personal deterrent devices, including some that offered little to no protection.
“We changed the name to Ocean Guardian so we could lift the brand out of the snake oil,” Mr Lyon said.
Ocean Guardian has Morgans on board as it considers funding options for the growth expected to come from NSW adopting the WA rebate model on personal deterrents and the global potential of its beach barrier technology.
The company considered an initial public offering in 2018 but opted to hold fire.
Mr Lyon said the beach barrier product had the potential to transform the business, with seven-figure contracts sitting alongside sales of personal deterrents priced at under $500 apiece.
The beach barrier is compromised of connected floats which dangle antenna into the water to create an electric current to keep sharks away from swimmers.
Mr Lyon said Ocean Guardian was moving into offering beach safety as a service to local councils and others seeking alternatives to nets and drum lines.
The former Hewlett Packard executive and keen surfer said that contrary to popular belief, shark nets are not a barrier.
“The majority of sharks that are caught are retrieved from the inside of the net and sadly greater than 90 per cent of the animals caught are non-target species,” he said.
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