Fears that Australian waters are infested with great white sharks has been vastly exaggerated, a groundbreaking study has confirmed.
The world-first genetic analysis developed by the CSIRO to gather information about great white sharks has found the total east coast population is about 5460.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday, covered the area from Queensland to Victoria and stretching across to New Zealand.
Associate Professor from School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University Laurie Laurenson said this estimated to be roughly two million square kilometres.
Associate Professor Laurenson said predicted numbers suggested there would be an estimated one great white shark per 366 square kilometres.
He said the projected numbers by the CSIRO are “extremely low”.
“The fascination with sharks and shark attacks is not justified,” he said.
“There are so few sharks out there that you are horrendously unlucky to be attacked by it.”
Great white sharks by the numbers
Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the study is a step in the right direction towards shedding light on shark populations.
The key misconception is that shark populations are exploding
“This CSIRO study into white shark population shows categorically that adult white shark numbers are not increasing, their numbers are stable or declining.”
The study has also indicated the current adult population of adult great white sharks in eastern Australia is 750 compared with the southern-western population which is estimated to have around 1460 of the feared species.
Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said: “These results, along with the high number of fatal shark attacks in Western Australia, make a compelling case for the West Australian government to take a more proactive approach to protect the public from shark attacks.
“The primacy of public safety is non-negotiable. That is why the Commonwealth continues to call on the West Australian Government to take stronger action to protect its citizens.”
But Greens spokesperson Mr Whish-Wilson said Minister Frydenberg has continued to propagate the notion of booming shark populations and unnecessarily politicise the debate.
He said the CSIRO research will help researchers better understand the future of white sharks, their behaviour and movements.
“Sharks are absolutely critical to our ecosystem. The more sharks there are in the ocean, the more we can actually celebrate that we’ve got healthy oceans.”
Associate Professor Laurenson said the tracking data that was released by the CSIRO reveal sharks travel long distances.
He said they would most likely be following where their food and breeding grounds are.
Sharks are very poor candidates for exploitation because of their slow regeneration rate, he said.
“If we cull a lot of sharks now, it is going to take … a lot more than 50 years for them to reach their original numbers.”