KIHEI, Hawaii (AP) — A surge in shark attacks on Maui over the past year, including two fatal ones, hasn't stopped people from surfing and swimming in the warm ocean waters that surround the Hawaii island.
But it has spurred sales of devices that claim to keep sharks away by emitting an electric pulse.
"They just cannot make these things fast enough," said Hawaiian Island Surf & Sport owner Dennis O'Donnell, who keeps a waiting list for the products and sells out as soon as he's restocked.
Users strap the devices to their ankles, wetsuits or surfboards. Some are about the size of an oversized watch, others the size of a wallet. They range in price from $399 to $649.
Some shark experts say the devices may help in some cases, but it's questionable whether they'll repel large sharks.
With or without the devices, people need to remember they are taking a risk when they go into waters inhabited by large predators like sharks, said George Burgess, the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research.
"It's not equal to going to the YMCA pool or the pool at the hotel," Burgess said.
The sales spike comes as there have been eight shark attacks in Maui waters last year. Statewide, there were 14 attacks in 2013. There were 11 attacks in Hawaii in 2012 and three the year before.
In August, a German tourist died a week after a shark bit off her arm. In December, a man fishing on his kayak died after a shark bit his foot that was dangling in the water.
The last time anybody was killed by a shark in Hawaii waters was in 2004.
Sterling Kaya, owner of the Honolulu fishing supply store Hana Pa'a Fishing Co., said he used a device once while using a spear to fish in the Marshall Islands.
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