Chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is among those supporting a call for 'responsible shark journalism'.

The charity Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation says that decades of news headlines labelling sharks as ‘monsters’, ‘killers’ and ‘beasts’ has created a climate of fear and loathing that is thwarting conservation initiatives.

A recent survey revealed that 46 per cent of Brits think that sharks are more terrifying than spiders, snakes and rodents combined and that 64 per cent 'would prefer them not to exist'.

An estimated 73 million sharks are slaughtered every year and Britain ranks in the top 25 shark fishing nations in the world. As a result, populations of key shark species including the great white, hammerhead, oceanic whitetip and thresher have fallen by 90% in the past 60 years.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall, of River Cottage fame who originally set up in west Dorset, said: "Sharks are getting a bad press they simply don’t deserve. Decades of sensational headlines have stripped sharks of their status as vital marine species and all too often left the public frightened for little reason. I’d welcome any move by the media to fairly report sharks rather than default to tired and inaccurate click bait captions.”

Bite-Back has secured support for its appeal from ocean ambassador Wendy Benchley, widow of Peter Benchley the author of Jaws.

In a bid to make Britain the first western country to ban shark products by 2022, Bite-Back has campaigned for Asda, Iceland Foods and Makro to end the sale of shark steaks. It has also spearheaded an 82% fall in the number of UK restaurants selling shark fin soup and prompted Holland & Barrett to end the sale of shark cartilage capsules.

The charity now plans to deliver its guideline document on the reporting of shark encounters to key media channels.

A copy can be downloaded at