TWO peak ocean conservation groups want thousands of everyday Australians to become champions for the country’s unique sharks and rays that are threatened by fishing and government-sanctioned culling.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI) today launched the Shark Champions campaign to build a national community of advocates for protecting sharks and rays in Australia.
Australia is home to more than 320 shark and ray species, half of which are unique to Australia’s waters.
Tooni Mahto, Campaign Manager at AMCS, said: “Healthy oceans need sharks. Today, we’re launching a campaign to drive improvements to the way in which Australia protects, conserves and manages sharks and rays.
“Sharks are under threat from unsustainable fishing, including fishing for endangered hammerhead sharks in the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.
“We expect Australian governments around the country to meet the challenge of protecting sharks and rays for the sake of our oceans and future generations of Australians. We’ll be asking our champions to sign and share petitions, to talk to decision makers and be voices for these amazing creatures.”
The Shark Champions campaign wants the Australian public to visit sharkchampions.org.au and sign up to create a groundswell of support for the protection, conservation, and improved management of Australia’s sharks and rays.
Nicola Beynon, Head of Campaigns at HSI, said: “Australia has been a champion of sharks at international forums, but the crown has slipped recently, with the focus more on culling sharks than protecting them.
“While the risk of a shark bite is low, it’s clear some governments are committed to culling sharks, despite a lack of proof that this decreases risk. With a range of non-lethal shark control methods available, the use of shark nets and lethal drum lines should be consigned to the history books.”
Many species face multiple threats and are caught intentionally and accidentally in fisheries around the country. Sharks are also targeted in shark control programs in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
Ultimately, the campaign wants to see its champions push Australia to become a global leader in shark and ray conservation.
The campaign aims to:
– Ensure Australia is an international champion for shark conservation, protection and management.
– Reduce fishing for endangered species of shark and ray.
– Ensure Australia’s threatened shark and ray species are protected under Australian law.
– Stop lethal culling of sharks.
Increase attention for little-known unique Australian species.
Beynon said: “We need to celebrate the incredible sharks and rays in our waters, and use our international influence to drive global improvements.”
“Internationally, sharks have gone from pariahs to icons with many countries intent on their protection, and we need Australia to keep up with the global trend. We look forward to working with Australian governments around the country during this campaign.”
Mahto added: “Globally, a third of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction. Here in Australia we can really make a difference, we need to stop fishing in areas critical to those species threatened with extinction and stop trading in endangered sharks.”
Story Source: Humane Society International / Australian Marine Conservation Society.