Hannah uses film to give sharks’ image a boost

Hannah Smith, 16, is trying to dispel the idea that sharks are 'mindless killing machines'. Photo by Stephen Jeffery.
Hannah Smith, 16, is trying to dispel the idea that sharks are 'mindless killing machines'. Photo by Stephen Jeffery.

EVER since a machine vaguely resembling a shark terrified audiences in blockbuster hit Jaws back in 1975, the public has maintained a constant fascination with, and terror of, the marine predators.

Amid the string of sensational films and accounts of shark attacks pervading popular culture, a Redlands teenager is trying to convince people that it is safe to go back in the water.

Hannah Smith has held a deep affection for sharks since she first began researching them at the age of 12.

Now aged 16, the Redlands College student is working to better educate people about the dangers sharks face from humans, rather than the other way around.

"I realised that they're in trouble and not actually scary, but they're going to die because people think they're scary," she said.

"About two people a year die from shark attacks in Australia, but 20 die from horse accidents."

Finning and the Western Australian shark culling program will be some of the threats Hannah will highlight in a short documentary she will submit to the Wildlife Queensland Bayside Branch Cicada awards later this year.

The Cicada awards recognise excellence in local wildlife filmmaking.

Taking a hands-on approach to the filmmaking, Hannah will capture some of the footage for the documentary while swimming with grey nurse sharks at Byron Bay over the school holidays.

While she's never been diving before, Hannah said the prospect of taking the plunge didn't worry her.

"I'm so excited, and it's going to be a challenge because grey nurses always swim away from people; they don't attack," she said.

"I'm going to get my diving licence at the end of the year because I want to go to the Bahamas and Cape Town, Costa Rica, and do the Great Barrier Reef."

Even if she does not win the award, Hannah intends to post the video on YouTube for anyone to see once it's completed.

She also plans to continue her advocacy for shark protection as a youth representative at Gold Coast Sea Shepherd.

"A shark is a fish with a cartilaginous skeleton and a prominent dorsal fin; that's it."

The Cicada award winners will be announced in late October.