Company claims special device can prevent shark attacks – but does it work? See it put to the test

BOSTON — The makers of a small rubber wristband said it can prevent shark bites and attacks and offer hope for those who are scared to swim in the ocean.

It’s a fear 15-year-old Peyton McGuinn said he understands too well, after his experience last August while surfing at St. Augustine Beach in Florida.

“I looked at my foot and I saw all the blood,” recalled McGuinn.

He said it started with a tug on his leg.

“Pretty much just felt like someone pulled me from underneath the water,” he said.

McGuinn said when he looked down, he saw a shark swimming away and realized he was bleeding.

“I went to land and then when I got there, even more blood started to come out. And there’s blood everywhere after that,” McGuinn said.

McGuinn said he suffered a torn tendon from the attack and needed to get surgery.

Scientists said shark attacks like these are uncommon. There’s a company that wants to make these rare attacks even more so with a special device.

Sharkbanz is a device you can wear on your wrist or your ankle.

The company said it’s a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of a shark attack while surfing, diving, or even swimming in the ocean.

“The way that they work is patented magnetic technology and they create this powerful magnetic field and when sharks come into contact with that field, it turns them away,” Davis Mersereau, vice president of Sharkbanz, said.

The company said it tested the products and it works.

They shared several videos, including one where a test dummy is baited with fish and dropped in the water with 15 bull sharks for 14 minutes.

Without the product, the dummy was bitten about every 42 seconds, but once Sharkbanz is placed on the dummy’s wrist and ankle, the company claims there were zero attacks.

“Before we even launched the product in 2014, we looked at all the research done showing and proving that magnetic technology that we were going to use was effective at deterring a wide variety of predatory shark species and there’s 10 years of research that’s been poured in from scientists, marine biologists all around the world to show that effectiveness,” Mersereau said.

Dr. Jim Gelsleichter studies sharks for a living as an associate professor of biology at the University of North Florida.

He said there is some scientific evidence behind Sharkbanz and other shark-repelling technology.

“Theoretically speaking, their permanent magnets do produce some sort of electric field that does seem to negatively impact sharks that does cause them to want to avoid that area,” Dr. Gelsleichter said.

Boston 25 News asked Cape Cod shark expert Dr. Greg Skomal with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries what he thought about the technology.

“My only concern would be that off Cape Cod, at least when white sharks attack their natural prey, they are using speed and stealth. And so they’re going to ambush anything with such speed that I’m not sure that that electrical field is going to be powerful enough to stop that shark,” Skomal said.

“It’s entirely possible that these can give people a false sense of security. Now, remember, the technology hasn’t been tested on Cape Cod or in Massachusetts waters, and that’s certainly something worth doing,” Skomal said, adding that those tests are difficult to conduct.

The company’s website does have more than 3,000 mostly positive reviews and testimonials.

Mathew Scott, McGuinn’s stepdad, said he received a Sharkbanz six months ago as a gift from his brother.

He said he’s used it a few times without any incidents and he’s even urging his stepson to get one too.

For now, McGuinn is staying off his board and out of the water.

“Probably eventually, like in the future, I’ll probably end up surfing again or just getting back in the water,” McGuinn said.