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Global check finds unique sharks are heading to extinction

An assessment by the world's leading authority on threatened species has shown two sharks unique to Australia have moved closer to extinction - a trend the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI) say needs to be tackled with urgent bans on fishing the species.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says the greeneye spurdog is now "Endangered” and the whitefin swellshark is now "Critically Endangered” when both had previously been categorised as "Near Threatened”. Both are only found in southern Australian waters. The major cause of these declines is commercial fishing.

The assessment by the IUCN included 41 Australian sharks and rays with some six species that swim in Australian waters having their global threat categorically raised.

Dr Leonardo Guida, AMCS Senior Shark Campaigner, said: "Sharks have been in our oceans for around 450 million years and have withstood five of the earth's extinction events - they deserve our respect and care.

"We know relatively little about our unique deepwater sharks like the greeneye spurdog and whitefin swellshark - there's a real risk we could lose them before we even get a chance to know them. For example, there are no rules at all relating to whitefin swellshark - either in how they're fished or protected.

"This crucial work by scientists at IUCN is a clear signal that we are not doing enough to protect our sharks and rays.”

Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at HSI, said: "We have the capacity and the resources to do more for our sharks in Australia. We learnt a few weeks ago in the government's Shark Report Card that several species in Australian waters are recovering because of changes to the way we fish.”

Later this week, HSI will submit scientific nominations to the Federal government for the protection of whitefin swellshark and other lesser known species including the critically endangered longnose skate, the endangered grey skate, and the endangered narrow sawfish. If approved these listings will secure federal protection for the species and require their recovery.

Chlebeck added: "The worsening conservation status of the whitefin swellshark to Critically Endangered is a perfect example of the threat to Australia's shark and ray biodiversity. A beautiful, bottom-dwelling species is being fished out of existence before most of us even knew its name. We need to identify and protect lesser known species under threat such as the whitefin swellshark, and the greeneye spurdog before it's too late.”

Dr Guida added: "We are calling on the Australian government to take urgent action and stop any fishing for these endangered species, and ban fishing in critical areas.”

In early March, AMCS and HSI together launched its Shark Champions campaign to build an army of advocates for the welfare and conservation of sharks and rays across Australia. For more information visit sharkchampions.org.au.


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