A DORSET charity which supports shark research and conservation fears that a new movie could reinforce negative perceptions of the endangered sea creatures.

Conservation biologist Georgia French, founder of SharkStuff, said that while new Jason Statham movie The Meg – about a 70-foot extinct shark which attacks an underwater research station - sounded ‘tongue-in-cheek’ it could trigger bad memories of the film Jaws.

“Jaws had a fairly devastating effect on the public perception of sharks,” she said. “Megalodons are definitely extinct but the film may reinforce that unsubstantiated fear that if you set foot in the ocean you might get mauled.”

The truth about sharks is quite different, she said. “They have surprisingly little protection.” There have also been no substantiated reports of a shark attack ever in British coastal waters although there are believed to be around 80 shark species living there.

One shark which is protected is the harmless and gentle 12-metre basking shark which spends its days filtering plankton. Although they are usually seen off the coast of Devon and Cornwall, Georgia says they have been spotted off Dorset, too.

“If you’re on a walk round Portland you might see them from the cliffs and we even had reports of one off Branksome the year before last,” she said.

SharkStuff wants all shark sightings to be reported to it, so it can help track and monitor populations off Dorset’s coast. It also helps record shark egg-cases, commonly known as Mermaid’s purses and over the weekend held a dissection of a dead shark and an egg-case hunt at Kimmeridge.

*More details from sharkstuff.co.uk