Surfboard fins with an in-built electronic shark shield and an acoustic system that detects sharks as they approach beaches are among four projects to be awarded almost $1 million in State Government research grants.
The projects will be funded as part of the Government's shark mitigation plan after they were selected by the Shark Hazard Research Committee, chaired by WA's retiring Chief Scientist Lyn Beazley.
Perth company Shark Shield has been awarded $300,000 over two years to develop a new shark deterrent device that can be retrofitted to all modern surfboards.
Shark Shield executive chairman Lindsay Lyon said many surfers refused to use the shark deterrent his company currently offered because it weighed about 330g and had a 2m trailing antenna that hung below the surfboard.
Mr Lyon said his Joondalup-based company would seek help from CSIRO scientists to turn the two outer fins at the back of a surfboard into electrodes and hide the electronics of the shark shield in the board's kicker and under its grip pad.
He said the proposed shark device would not impact on the weight or performance of a surfboard and could be retrofitted to all modern boards.
"They are no good to anybody if people don't use them," Mr Lyon said.
"If every surfer can have their board turned into an electronic shark deterrent with no impact on the design process and the surfboard's performance, then I think we've got a globally applicable product that will help save lives and protect surfers."
A project led by University of WA researcher Shane Chambers will get $252,417 to develop an acoustic system to detect sharks as they approach Perth beaches.
Mr Chambers, from UWA's school of physics, said the proposed system would replace physical nets with a "virtual net" that sensed big marine creatures as they approached and set off an alarm.
"It's an acoustic detection system that could be easily deployed off coastal locations to act as an alarm for beach users," Mr Chambers said. "It would be able to detect and alert beach users that something large has entered the region . . . and usually the only things that will come in are sharks or the odd dolphin."
Researchers at Curtin University's Centre for Marine Science and Technology will get $130,124 over three years to develop systems to disguise noises made by beachgoers that attract sharks.
More than $280,000 will go towards a study led by UWA Associate Professor Nathan Hart that will attempt to define the visual, electrical and vibrational cues that trigger shark attacks so the design of existing shark deterrents can be improved.
Premier Colin Barnett said the Government's shark mitigation strategy recognised that there was no one simple way to ensure the risks posed to WA water users by sharks were minimised.
Shark sightings this summer have forced the frequent closure of metropolitan beaches.