Sydney-siders used to be terrified of sharks, thinking man-eating monsters lurked behind every wave. Now most people realise that not only are shark attacks very rare, but these magnificent creatures have a crucial role to play in keeping our oceans healthy.
One of the people responsible for this huge shift in public opinion is Balgowlah resident Sharni Connell.
Last night (March 17) she was named Manly's Eco Hero for 2016,
The ceremony, which is run by Manly Environment Centre, was held in the stunning surrounds of Manly's Sea Life Sanctuary and took place one day after the environment centre's 25th anniversary.
Ms Connell won from a field of 23 contestants who had each been nominated for their outstanding contribution to Manly's environment.
“We have to find a way to share the ocean safely without killing sharks or other marine animals, " Ms Connell said. "No matter how how difficult it is we have to keep protesting, because there is no Planet B."
Ms Connell has conducted her own research on controversial shark protection methods such as shark nets, which are now known to kill vast numbers of "non-target" species, as well as sharks.
She has organised hugely successful public rallies and spoken to many community groups and government bodies including Manly Council and Premier and local MP Mike Baird.
She was a key player in organising a high powered Shark Summit late last year. As a direct result real progress has been made with a trial now in place of non-lethal shark protection methods such as "smart buoys" with sonar detection systems, plastic barriers, drone technology and community education.
She is also the chair of the Australia-wide group No Shark Cull.
Ms Connell received an original painting from local artist Mark Budd. It's of Manly"s treasured Marine Sanctuary at Cabbage Tree Bay and there's a shark right in the middle of it.
Thanks to Brendan Donohoe, from the Surfrider Foundation, who spoke of the rising tide of environmental awareness in communities like ours; and everyone who came along to make the night so much fun.