A landmark research project into great white sharks has appeared to overturn a number of widely held beliefs, including that swimming at dusk or dawn increases the risk of being attacked.

And growing suspicions that so-called rogue sharks could have been responsible for a spate of recent fatal attacks are also likely to be untrue, according to the boss of WA's Fisheries Department.

The preliminary findings come after a horror 22-month period in WA when five people were killed in attacks by white pointers.

As the department confirmed it had tagged just 12 white sharks in WA since 2009, director-general Stuart Smith said new research seemed to debunk several theories about the mysterious creatures.

Among them has been an investigation by Fisheries staff into whether white pointers effectively live in certain WA waters at times of the year and could be behind an increase in attacks and sightings.

Mr Smith said the research, which was part of a broader study into the animals and their habits, indicated there was no such thing as "resident" white sharks.

"There is a suggestion that they might frequent a part of the State every year for a period," Mr Smith said during a parliamentary estimates hearing this week.

"The work we have done so far if anything is disproving rather than proving that theory, although it is too early to draw any conclusions."

Almost 100 white sharks have been tagged as part of the wider project, which is being run in collaboration with the South Australian Government and the CSIRO, although most were captured in SA.

The study, published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series last week, found that great white sharks in waters off WA and SA west of the Bass Strait were a separate breeding population to those in the east.

Study author Jennifer Ovenden, from the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said although white sharks moved widely, almost right around the southern hemisphere, they seemed to come back to the same place in Australia to give birth and probably to mate.

The West Australian

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