Sharks should be more fearful of humans

Shark numbers have declined by 90 per cent worldwide. Photo / Thinkstock
Shark numbers have declined by 90 per cent worldwide. Photo / Thinkstock

Beachgoers have little to fear from sharks, despite an increased number of sightings during the past summer months in Australia.

In fact, Jaws and his smaller cousins have more to fear from encounters with humans, as shark numbers have alarmingly declined by 90 per cent worldwide and more species are now at risk of extinction.

Nature Conservation Council of NSW chief executive officer Pepe Clarke says the chances of swimmers being attacked are very small.

"Humans are not part of a shark's natural diet, with no evidence any shark species will set out to intentionally bite or harm people," Mr Clarke said on Thursday.

He said Australian shark bite fatalities over the past decade average around 1.3 per year, despite large increases in the number of beachgoers.

However, thousands of sharks are killed annually off the Australian coast.

Mr Clarke appealed to fishermen to put an end to shark fishing and protect the endangered creatures.

"These marine icons are susceptible to the impacts of fishing as they are slow growing, late to mature and produce few young," he said.

Mr Clarke said the increased number of shark sightings along the NSW coast doesn't mean there are more sharks in our oceans.

"They (sharks) are just more likely to be seen during the warmer months of the year," he said.

Sharks are more visible during summer as the warm water from the East Australian Current extends down the coast and brings with it various marine species, including sharks.

"Warmer temperatures also entice more swimmers to our beaches, meaning sharks are more likely to be spotted by the increased aerial surveillance of beaches," Mr Clarke said.

"We mustn't let fear hold back efforts to put an end to shark fishing and protect shark populations at risk, including the critically endangered grey nurse shark."

- AAP

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