MANILA, Philippines-Sharks may look vicious but do you know there are 10 times more people who die each year from being hit by a falling coconut than from a shark attack?
That's according to Greenpeace Philippines oceans campaigner Vince Cinches, who made the comparison as the group launched Shark Week on Sunday.
Greenpeace wants to break stereotypes about sharks to stop their overhunting and prevent their extinction.
"Though often portrayed as vicious man-eating carnivores, statistics show that the odds of being hit by a coconut are 10 times greater than those of being bitten by a shark," Cinches said in a statement.
Greenpeace cited statistics presented in 2011 by a travel company promoting island vacations, which claimed that each year an estimated 150 people die after being hit on the head by falling coconuts.
The majority of the casualties were having naps under coconut trees.
In comparison, according to the Greenpeace website, shark attacks kill between 8 and 12 people each year.
Cinches said the extinction of sharks would have "devastating" consequences to man's survival.
As top predators, sharks maintain the balance of the marine ecosystem by preying on the sick and weak members of their populations, thus preventing the spread of diseases, according to Cinches.
"An outbreak could be devastating," he warned.
Of the more than 300 known shark species in the world, the Philippines is known to have around 160 species.
Most notable is the whale shark, or "butanding." These are slow-moving creatures that mainly eat plankton and are being used as underwater tourist attractions.
"Sharks represent the current problem that global oceans are facing, with ecosystems in decline due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing," Cinches said.
"The problem of killing and harvesting sharks is rampantly happening on our shores, mostly because of the lack of awareness among fishermen and also because of poor regulations on poaching and the illegal trading of sharks," he said.
Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year around the world. Many of them are accidentally caught in fishing gears while others are killed for their fins, meat or oil, according to Greenpeace.
Some species of sharks have become locally extinct, Greenpeace said.
On Sunday, in Cebu City, Greenpeace opened a weeklong photo exhibit at Ayala Center Cebu titled "SOS: Spotlight on Sharks."
The exhibit features 12 commissioned photos highlighting the "beauty, diversity and vulnerability of these incredibly majestic and often misunderstood creatures of the deep."
Cinches said Cebu had already banned the practice of catching sharks.
"It's about time Filipinos gave sharks their due respect and appreciation and protect them from further extinction. After all, we owe them our very own survival," he said.