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No fear of sharks

Sharks don’t have a good reputation, and MQ PhD candidate Charlie Huveneers wants to change that.

“More people die from bees than sharks. They aren’t the killing machines that are depicted in films.”

Charlie has come from Belgium to undertake his PhD on Sydney’s wobbegong shark. Wobbegongs are harmless to humans, but are targeted by fisherman.

He is looking at whether the wobbegong is strong enough to survive current levels of fishing.

Despite the hype surrounding sharks, Charlie says very little is known about the animal. He has already found a new species of wobbegong - an unexpected highlight of his project.



Belgian student Charlie Huveneers with a wobbegong shark

“The shark's basic biology is unknown. We don’t know where they go, where they give birth- even famous sharks like the Great White are relatively unknown.”

Charlie has swum with sharks countless times during recreational and study dives. He clearly admires them. “I was tagging in South West Rocks (on the NSW north coast)… and was surrounded by about 20 grey nurse sharks. It was incredible.”

“People have the misconception that sharks are evil and are going to eat them, but they’re not. If a shark comes too close I just push it away. They are curious, but they are not going to bite you.”

Charlie has worked for a number of years in shark awareness, both here and overseas. He says, “For every one person killed by a shark, 100 million sharks are killed by humans. If you get bitten, you’re unlucky- I’ve dived with hundreds of them and I am fine.” 

For more information visit the Biological Sciences website.

Related Articles:

Solving a shellfish problem (May 2005)

Spider man on campus (March 2005)

David Attenborough films at MQ (January 2005)