Most swimmers will be within 300 metres from a shark at New Zealand beaches this summer - but that's actually a good thing

As Kiwis hit the beaches this summer there may be one fear lurking in the back of their minds - sharks. 

And while these majestic and terrifying creatures might cause a shiver of fear to run down your spine, that fear might not be justified. 

Sharks have a reputation as cold-blooded human killers, but in reality, they are much more common than people might think and you've probably swum near them without even noticing. 

So before you throw away your swimsuit and vow to stay away from the beach this summer, here are some must-know facts about sharks. 

Felix Berghoefer from Kelly Tarlton's told Newshub that movies like Jaws have given sharks a bad reputation as human killing machines, when in reality they are very "lazy'' and tend to go for the weakest fish. 

"They're portrayed as human killing machines and that their only purpose in being alive is going around and hunting humans, that's absolutely not true.

"Sharks are actually really lazy. They aren't bothered by humans at all and a very few types of sharks would ever interact with humans. 

"Most sharks are literally just out to catch fish and stay away from humans. Humans aren't on the spectrum of prey that sharks hunt." 

So if they are so uninterested in humans, why do they sometimes attack them? Well, Berghoefer said mostly when a shark bites a human it's out of curiosity, not hunger. 

Think of toddlers putting everything in their mouths when they are young and that's basically why sharks sometimes attack people. But most people don't really care why they attack, they just don't want to be the victim. 

Thankfully, it's very unlikely you will be bitten because along with being lazy, sharks are actually pretty scared of humans, Berghoefer said. He stressed that most people are around sharks much more than they realise without being attacked. 

"Often there will be a shark within about 200 to 300 metres of people swimming. There are actually quite a lot of sharks in the water but, like I said, they aren't bothered by people; they keep their distance. 

"They don't want anything to do with us. And even if there is one around you it's probably just going to swim past and you're not even going to know about it." 

For normal swimmers, it's incredibly unlikely they will notice sharks in the water. Spearfishers or people swimming near offshore reefs may run into them but they are unlikely to be aggressive. 

"If you're scuba diving, diving off the offshore reefs, or spearfishing you may attract a few sharks because they feel the commotion in the water but they're just curious and want to see what's going on." 

And while they might be scary, sharks actually play a key role in the ocean's and planet's ecosystem. Making them an incredibly necessary part of our ocean life. 

"Sharks are key to our ecosystems. They do population control, they keep gene pools healthy so if we didn't have sharks the whole ecosystem of the oceans would collapse, which is linked to the land so the whole global ecosystem would slowly collapse and couldn't function because everything would be out of balance," Berghoefer said. 

So what should you do if you do run into a shark?  

Berghoefer said the most important thing to do is stay calm because if you get nervous, they will catch onto that fear. 

"Stay calm. That's really all it is because if you stay calm the shark is going to stay calm but if you get nervous, which is probably likely if you see a shark because that's most people's reactions, the shark is probably just going to get freaked out and swim away. I wouldn't expect a shark to become aggressive just because you get nervous. 

To get more comfortable with the idea of sharks being at the beaches this summer, I jumped in the shark tank at Kelly Tarlton's. Watch the full video above.