In danger ... grey nurse shark.

At risk ... grey nurse shark.

Sharks get a bad press and suffer from a negative public image - it's official.

A paper just published in Conservation Biology in the US looked at 300 shark-related articles published in 20 major Australian and US papers from 2000 to 2010.

Despite evidence many shark species are at risk of extinction the research sponsored by the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University found that most media coverage emphasised the risks sharks pose to people.

White sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks got most coverage and shark attacks were the emphasis of more than half the articles analysed (52 per cent). Conservation concerns were, conversely, the subject of only 11 per cent of articles while species of greater conservation concern like grey nurse sharks did not receive much coverage.

Of the articles in Australia 58 per cent related to shark attacks on people and 11.3 per cent related to the "positive effects of sharks".

Attacks on people in the US accounted for fewer news reports, 46 per cent, and there was more coverage given to their positive effects at 27 per cent.

The study also found shark events received international coverage which meant the world was watching how local people reacted.

It stated: "To the extent that media reflects social opinion, our results highlight problems for shark conservation."

"If sharks continue to be framed primarily as perpetrators of risk, policy responses will likely remain unfavourable to shark conservation."

In conclusion the paper suggested that "conservation professionals purposefully and frequently engage with the media to highlight the rarity of shark attacks, discuss preventative measures water users can take to reduce their vulnerability to shark encounters, and discuss conservation issues related to local and threatened species of sharks."