HUNTING for great white sharks could start next year following a study to determine how many of the killer fish lurk in Australian waters.

But surfers and swimmers are demanding a cull sooner than that off the NSW coast to prevent further attacks this spring and summer, amid claims that shark numbers are rocketing.

"The cold, hard reality is that their numbers are increasing - there's no way anyone can dispute that," Lennox-Ballina Boardriders Club president Don Munro said. "Due to the increasing numbers a cull should be a foregone conclusion."

Ballina councillor Phil Meehan added: "Targeted fishing may well be the answer to bring shark numbers back to a safe level."

The federal government will consider removing the existing "vulnerable and threatened" protection status for great whites following a CSIRO study into their numbers which is due to report back this year. 

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