Shark deterrents are becoming big business in Australia, a scene with a sharply growing incidence of shark attacks alongside other surfer-friendly countries such as the US.
Ocean Guardian Holdings (ASX: OCG) plans to edge into the mounting shark threat in surfer hotspots such as Ballina, New South Wales, and says its scientifically-proven devices will finally put an end to lingering shark fears, as well as, set the stage for the removal of shark nets guarding Australia’s beaches that currently stretch thousands of kilometres.
Developed as a result of over twenty years of scientific research, Ocean Guardian’s FREEDOM7, SCUBA7 and FREEDOM+ products embody the underlying technology that is already being used by surfers, scuba divers, spear fishers, free-divers and ocean kayak fishers.
The company’s flagship FREEDOM7 and SCUBA7 products are priced at A$749 and A$799 respectively and are available from its website (www.sharkshield.com).
Ocean Guardian’s Shark Shield series range generates an electromagnetic field that deters sharks by interfering with the receptors they use for navigation and hunting.
Individuals or vessels must wear a battery-powered device which emits an electromagnetic pulse, causing an “unpleasant non-damaging but uncontrollable spasm” impacting the shark’s electrical receptors causing it to turn away, according to Ocean Guardian.
The company says its technology is the only electrical shark deterrent technology in the world with product efficacy supported by peer-reviewed published research papers.
The company is set to offer up to 25 million shares, at A$0.20 each, with a further 5 million available subject to sufficient market demand, with Emerald Capital Australia managing the IPO.
If the listing is successful, Ocean Guardian will become a public company with a A$16.5 million market capitalisation.
Australian shark attacks
Australia has more coastline than almost any other country in the world, with its sandy warm-water beaches stretching thousands of kilometres.
Given Australia’s geography and natural environment, many of its coastal communities have become inundated with reported shark sightings and attacks to the point there are coastal areas struggling to hold onto tourists and business investment due to fearful visitors.
From a commercial perspective, the threat posed by sharks has led to negative effects that stretch beyond the tangible. Shark hotspot areas such as Ballina in NSW have been hit the most with lost revenue, forced migration and lost tourism as the largest bugbears of more shark sightings and growing incidences of shark attacks (on surfers in particular).
According to the CSIRO, shark attacks on divers and swimmers has remained constant over recent decades; however, there has been an increase in attacks against surfers, particularly due to the increasing popularity of the sport.
Other factors may also be significant such as greater population migration towards coastal areas, more use of beaches in general, and dwindling food available to sharks further offshore.
Growing human interest in aquatic recreation and an increase in coastal populations are key causal factors says George H Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FMNH), a US-based record-keeper of shark attacks.
“It’s not because sharks have become more aggressive. Rather, throughout the world there has been a growing human interest in aquatic recreation and an increase in people in the seas,” said Mr Burgess.
“In addition, both sharks and humans prefer the same nearshore ocean zones, thus increasing the likelihood of interactions,” he added.
Guarding against growing shark threats
After several years developing its technology and brand, Ocean Guardian will become a public company targeting surfers via its existing surf and dive product range, but the company is also keen to develop innovative new products for the boating and beach markets that capture wider audiences such as cruise operators, hoteliers and tour companies as just a few examples.
Ocean Guardian says its IPO will facilitate the company’s expansion into the leisure boating market, as well as explore new “long-range” shark deterrent technology.
One of its primary market-access novelties has been to secure a rebate agreement with the West Australian Government which sees FREEDOM7 customers rebated A$200 of the A$749 purchase price (around 27%).
The deal is significant because it provides Ocean Guardian with official validation and state support in preparation for its public market entry and analysts forecast upcoming sales figures to rise year-on-year because of the inclusion into WA’s state rebate program.
As Ocean Guardian prepares its market splash, investors have until 7 June 2018 to make their applications to participate in the forthcoming IPO with a provisional date of 28 June currently set for the company to make its ASX debut.