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July 30, 2013

Yes, they're down there, but shark attacks are quite uncommon

(Continued)

Christopher Neff, a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney who researches the human-shark relationship, wrote in an email that humans are becoming more open to protecting sharks in the open ocean even as they're growing more hostile to those near shore. In March, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) agreed to impose new rules on the trade in hammerhead, oceanic white tip and porbeagle sharks under which countries would have to prove their catch was sustainable before exporting these fish.

In December, French Polynesia and the Cook Islands joined together to create the world's largest shark sanctuary, emulating small island nations such as Palau and the Maldives in banning all shark fishing in their waters.

But both western Australia and Runion have authorized shark hunts in the wake of deadly strikes there. Neff noted that researchers have become better at tracking sharks' swimming patterns with the use of satellite and radio tagging, but sharing this sort of information "can arouse public anxiety," and it can't prevent some of the inevitable human-shark interactions that arise.

"Anywhere we have a beach, we likely have sharks," he wrote. "The difference is that until now, we didn't know it."

Eilperin is author of "Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks."

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