He makes documentaries about dangerous animals for a living, is the world's only shark lassoer, and has a range of catchphrases to rival "crikey" or "crocs rule."

But Richard Fitzpatrick, marine biologist, filmmaker and shark campaigner, recoils from comparisons to the late Steve Irwin. "Steve never made natural history shows; they were entertainment shows," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

"It's a whole different genre. We are only grabbing the animals if we're actually doing something with them — tagging them or milking them for venom."

Mr Fitzpatrick is one of several scientists compiling data on marine life in the Coral Sea, off northeast Australia, ahead of a looming decision by the Rudd government on whether it will create a marine park in the region.

He and a team of scientists have spent the past 10 years lassoing and tagging with microchips whitetip reef sharks, grey reef sharks and tiger sharks around Osprey Reef, which rises 1.25 miles above the ocean floor about 186 miles northeast of Cairns.

The data is used to map the movements and migration patterns of the animals and to determine wild reproduction rates.

"We have found there's much more connectivity between the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef than we previously thought," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

The team's operations do not receive government grants, and all research is funded by proceeds from the documentaries — Mr Fitzpatrick has recently completed shows for the BBC, National Geographic and The Discovery Channel — as well as by eco-tourism.