The public fears sharks less when they understand their behaviour

12 December 2017

A family looks at a shark in an aquarium. Image: iStock
A family looks at a shark in an aquarium. Image: iStock

An experiment involving more than 500 visitors to an aquarium 'shark tunnel' has shown the public's fear of sharks reduces when they learn about the species by watching their behaviour.

University of Sydney researchers conducted a randomised experiment in Shark Valley at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium in November 2013, by setting up iPads running survey software at the entrance and exit of a 'shark tunnel'.

Aquarium visitors were asked questions about their perceptions of sharks, their level of pride in the local shark population, their fear of sharks and shark bites, who they blame for shark bites, and the role of government in shark bite prevention. Aquarium visitors completed surveys before and after walking through the 'shark tunnel' while sharks swam above.

The study shows aquarium visitors were less afraid of sharks and less likely to blame sharks for incidents where a swimmer or surfer was bitten, once they better understood shark behaviour -and that sharks do not hurt humans with 'intent'.

The study was co-authored byDr Chris Pepin-Neffand Dr Thomas Wynter of the University of Sydney and is published in the latest edition ofMarine Policy.

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