Sharks Suffer From Bad Public Image

Written by on November 4, 2012 in Marine Life
Shark attacking bait.

Shark “attacking” bait. Photo credit: 126 Club via photopin cc

With their black eyes and rows of teeth, it’s easy to understand why many people fear sharks, but our view of these creatures is actually hurting their chances for survival.

A new analysis determined that negative media reports about sharks and shark attacks are hindering shark conservation efforts.  According to the analysis, Australian and U.S. news articles are more likely to focus on shark attacks than on shark conservation issues.

Shark populations are declining worldwide as they suffer from the effects of climate change and an increase in demand for shark fin soup, but they also “suffer from a negative public image,” the authors write.  “Our results highlight problems for shark conservation.”

The research team located shark-related articles published in 20 major U.S. and Australian newspapers between 2000 and 2010 and randomly chose 300 to analyze.

Their findings:

  • Over half (52 percent) were about shark attacks
  • Sharks were portrayed negatively in 59 percent of the articles
  • Only 11 percent of the articles were about shark conservation
  • Only 19 percent involved positive topics about sharks (like aquarium exhibits)
  • Significantly more Australian newspapers focused on shark attacks
  • Significantly more US articles focused on sharks for entertainment (movies, books and TV)

The authors conclude that “most news coverage in both Australia and the United States continues to emphasize risks from sharks rather than the reverse.”

Pacific shortfin mako shark.

Pacific shortfin mako shark. Photo credit: Mark Conlin, NOAA.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Ranil Pieris says:

    so true! In a similar manner, Today in Sri Lanka elephants are getting a reputation for being killers, led by the press coverage, Marauding Jumbo’ etc. They are victims of bad land use policies. When People who have been settled in their territory grow things (agriculture) the elephants go and tend to help themselves to grain stored within the huts. When the poor farmer gets in the way s/he is swatted aside like a fly resulting in an unfortunate death sometimes(last 10 years on average about 45 human / 175 elephants die every year). I fear both are victims, education with facts is required.

  2. Emily says:

    Thanks for your comment, Ranil. I have to agree–education is the key!