Research by Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation reveals that Brits are in love with the oceans — but not with sharks.

While 83% think more should be done to protect the world’s oceans, 64% would prefer sharks not to exist.

According to the research, sharks are the stuff of nightmares for nearly half (46%) of the UK population with more people terrified by sharks than spiders, snakes and rodents combined.

TV naturalist and Bite-Back patron Steve Backshall said: “Love them or loathe them, if you want to protect the oceans you’ve got to st

art with sharks. They’re absolutely crucial to the health of the marine environment.

“It’s my belief that this deep-rooted fear is hindering shark conservation efforts and yet an ocean without sharks could be catastrophic for life on earth. The consequences will certainly impact the seafood we eat and the air we breathe. For the love of sharks and the future of the planet I’m supporting Bite-Back’s campaigns to curb demand for shark products.”

Bite-Back says the fear of sharks overshadows the reality. The survey revealed that three times as many people think sharks are more deadly than cattle yet, on average, British cows alone kill nearly as many people (five) every year as all the sharks in the world combined (six).

Campaign director for Bite-Back Graham Buckingham said: “For decades Hollywood movies and the media have only represented sharks as monsters. And it’s just not true. JAWS wasn’t a documentary and the fact is that toasters, ladders, dogs, vending machines and lightning strikes each kill more people than sharks every year. For me the fact that humans kill 73 million sharks a year, roughly two every second, is the most terrifying shark statistic to share.”

In recent years shark fins, used as the title ingredient in shark fin soup, have become one of the most valuable seafood items on the planet causing a marine ‘gold rush’ for sharks. Since the fins are worth more than the carcass, unscrupulous fishermen catch sharks and then slice the fins off before throwing the shark overboard to die. Bite-Back describes the act as the marine equivalent of killing an elephant for its tusks. Since 2012 the charity has prompted 40 UK restaurants to stop serving the controversial dish.

When it comes to sharks in British seas 55% think that there are no more than five species and just 1% knew that more than 30 species occur off our coastline. Over a third of people (36%) had never heard of the Basking Shark, the largest fish in UK waters and the second largest fish in the world.

Of the three sharks easily named by the public, Great White (89%), Hammerhead (80%) and Tiger (67%), each have seen populations plummet by as much as 90% in some parts of the world in the past 50 years.

Steve Backshall said: “Sharks have been around since before dinosaurs walked the earth but now they’re in real danger of being wiped out. We’ve got to educate people on the importance of sharks and stop representing them as the bogeyman for them to stand a chance of survival.”

The adventurer has also launched a fundraising initiative for the charity in the run up to Christmas.

In collaboration with outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, Mountain Warehouse, Steve Backshall has designed a shark motif t-shirt as part of his newest kid’s range with the brand. Available at all Mountain Warehouse stores nationwide and on the Mountain Warehouse website, 10% of sales from the shark t-shirt will be donated to Bite-Back.

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