Shark management is contested and community support often influences policy. Decision makers are unlikely to be comfortable explaining policy solely based on expert advice, scientific data, or any information, if they feel out of touch with important stakeholder thinking. This paper used “appraisal” method to analyse comments related to the NSW Shark Management Strategy in Twitter and in 10 public Facebook sites over one year, followed by focus groups conducted with beach and ocean end-users. Social media revealed spikes of emotion around policy decisions and shark encounters that subsequently abated. Reasons given for strategy preferences emphasised perception of harm to sharks and other species, cost efficiency, and likelihood that the strategy would generate fear or reassurance. Many believe fear of sharks is disproportionate to actual physical harm, and perceive that well-intended shark tagging and alerts increase awareness and fear of sharks. Findings emphasised hope that detection, deterrent and surveillance technologies will improve efficacy of shark harm mitigation in the future. Importantly for policy makers, the findings elaborate simple preference information, revealing multidimensionality in attitudes concerning shark harm mitigation strategies, and explaining associations and thinking. The study highlights the importance of listening to communities and carefully planning and adapting policy communication.