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Groundbreaking shark research

  • Wednesday 9th April 2014

In the wake of yet another fatal shark bite in Australia, groundbreaking new research released today by the SEA LIFE Conservation Fund has found little support for the Government on the hotly debated issue of culling sharks who have been responsible for causing injuries or death to swimmers.

The survey of 583 aquarium visitors* asked participants how they thought the Government should respond to shark bites and found that despite the public's fears, 87 per cent favoured non-lethal responses with 18 per cent responding that the shark should be "left alone" and 69 per cent supporting public education as the best method for preventing shark bites.

Only four per cent of those surveyed supported the hunting of sharks, while nine per cent supported more shark nets as a preventative measure. Another key finding was that the least amount of "blame" for shark bites was directed at the Government with just 2-4 per cent. Respondents' blame toward the shark also ranked low with only 6-8 per cent. Those indicated as most responsible were either the swimmer (38-44 per cent) or simply "no one" (33 - 40 per cent).

Conducted by University of Sydney Lecturer Dr Christopher Neff and funded by the SEA LIFE Conservation Fund, the survey is the first research of its kind. Dr Neff stated, "These responses show that there is little support for government measures that kill sharks and that the public does not blame governments when these tragedies occur."

Taking the Bite Out of Jaws

"The Australian public is ready for some new options" said Claudette Rechtorik, Director of the SEA LIFE Conservation Fund. She added, "The findings from this data are consistent with what we hear every day. After 77 years of shark culling in New South Wales it is time to consider something else. We feel strongly about Shark Mission and believe the research is important for policymakers to consider given that it suggests that the Government should respond to shark bites with greater public education and non-lethal shark culling measures."

The project is entitled Taking the Bite Out of Jaws: Rethinking Public Education about Sharks and also funded by the Save Our Seas Foundation. It was conducted in November 2013 following the succession of fatal shark bites in Western Australia in November and is being incorporated into the curriculum of the various SEA LIFE aquariums around Australia so visitors can learn more about the research.

More About SEA LIFE Conservation

*A total of 583 visitors completed both iPad surveys at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium comprising adults and children aged between 5 and 75 years of age. Visitors were asked 'how frightened are you of sharks' on each side of the Shark Valley exhibit with three different sets of questions being used in the surveys set up before they went through the exhibit and all the same questions on their way out.