SHARK ADVOCATAES: Gabrielle Nieuwenhof and Shanice Stevens, who are both studying a Bachelor of Marine Science and Management at Southern Cross University, are also promoting awareness for the conservation of sharks.
SHARK ADVOCATAES: Gabrielle Nieuwenhof and Shanice Stevens, who are both studying a Bachelor of Marine Science and Management at Southern Cross University, are also promoting awareness for the conservation of sharks. Mireille Merlet

Can we stop being so hard on sharks?

SHARKS get a bad rap, say two young marine science students who want people to know how vital these creatures are to our environment.

Gabrielle Nieuwenhof, 19, and Shanice Stevens, 21, who are both studying at Southern Cross University, have marched to protest against the killing of sharks and Ms Nieuwenhof regularly dives with them at her favourite diving spot, Julian Rocks.

"Last week I saw my first grey nurse for the season," she said.

Now they want to start a blog where other people who support shark conservation can get more knowledge about the species and share ideas about how to save them.

"Sharks are around 400 million years old and they've survived most of the major extinctions," Ms Nieuwenhof said.

"But now, because of humans, many are becoming endangered."

In Australia, critically endangered species include the grey nurse shark and speartooth shark and endangered species include the northern river shark.

Around 100 million sharks are killed each year by humans, often in inhumane ways. At the same time, around one person on average dies in Australia every year from shark attacks.

Both girls acknowledged that shark attacks and images such as Jaws were what many people thought of when they thought about these magnificent ocean creatures.

Even though sharks didn't consider humans food, overfishing was bringing them closer to shore.

They urge people not to eat "flake", which is often high in mercury, and to educate themselves about the real shark, not the one vilified in the media.

Ms Nieuwenhof and Ms Stevens were also supporters of Shark Girl, former Byron Bay resident Madison Stewart, an underwater cinematographer and passionate shark advocate.

You can get in touch with both girls, and Ms Stewart, via Facebook.

 

ABOUT SHARKS

There are more than 400 different species, from the 8-inch-long dwarf lanternshark to the 40-foot-long whale shark.

Around 180 species occur in Australian waters, of which about 70 are thought to be endemic.

Sharks are thought to be around 400 million years old.

Some sharks like the smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis) may only live 16 years, while others such as the porbeagle shark, (Lamna nasus) may live as long as 46 years. Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), the largest fish in the world, may live more than 100 years.



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