THE publication of Australia’s first ever ‘Shark Report Card’ has been welcomed by leading shark conservation groups. The report highlights serious conservation concerns for Australia’s iconic marine species, including endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks and critically endangered largetooth and green sawfishes.
It also notes a serious decline in tiger sharks, suggesting they too could soon be officially classified as overfished in Australian waters.
Australia’s oceans are globally important for sharks and rays. We have over 320 different species, and around half of these are unique to our waters. Any loss of these species from Australia’s oceans is a loss to the planet.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and the Humane Society International (HSI) say that the Shark Report Card shows that the majority of Australia’s populations of sharks and rays are in better shape than in many other areas of the planet. But with a third of the world’s sharks and rays being threatened with extinction¹, the bar is perilously low. A quarter of the world’s shark and ray species call Australia home, and as a global refuge for sharks, we need to do better.
Dr. Leonardo Guida, Senior Shark Campaigner with AMCS said, “The major culprit in the decline of many species of sharks and rays is commercial fishing. Until we take swift action to stop fishing in parts of our ocean that are critical to the survival of species like sawfish, river sharks and scalloped hammerhead sharks, we will be bearing witness to their extinction.”
Inconsistencies in inter-state fisheries management mean that iconic species like endangered hammerhead sharks could soon vanish from Australian waters.
Dr. Guida said, “Scalloped hammerheads aren’t aware of state boundaries; on the east coast they’re fully protected in New South Wales, but killed by the thousands within the sanctuary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Queensland. It’s absurd.”
Nicola Beynon, HSI Head of Campaigns said, “Tiger sharks are facing the real threat of extinction, yet we continue to unjustly demonise them. Their populations have collapsed by three quarters in Queensland waters² and yet we still see Queensland senselessly cull around 200 each year³.”
“Large coastal sharks, like the tiger shark, are integral to the overall health of reefs and seagrass meadows – critical habitats supporting dugongs, sea turtles, and a range of fish. The fact that tiger sharks are declining and have little formal management in place for their protection across Australia is alarming,” said Ms Beynon.
AMCS and HSI are calling on Australian governments to prioritise protection for endangered species of sharks and rays, commit funding to recover their populations and remove fishing effort from parts of our seas that are critical to their survival. The organisations are nominating species highlighted in the report, such as the tiger shark and whitefin swellshark, for threatened species listings.
A species noted in the report as depleting and needing to be ‘carefully monitored and managed’ is the shortfin mako. Australia has an opportunity to improve monitoring and management for the species at a UN meeting in Sri Lanka in May. Short and longfin mako sharks are proposed for listing on the UN Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). HSI and AMCS are asking the Australian Government to vote in their favour.
The organisations have launched a campaign to drive better protection for sharks and rays. They are encouraging Australians to become Shark Champions and create healthier oceans.
Sign up to Shark Champions at www.sharkchampions.org.au
Story Souce: Australian Marine Conservation Society