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Up to 92% of sharks in Queensland waters gone

14th December 2018 — The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) andHumane Society International (HSI) say Australians would be shocked to learn that in the past 55 years, shark populations have declined by up to 92% off the Queensland coast1 and from within the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

The steep decline is driven by commercial shark fishing compounded by fishery mismanagement by successive Queensland and Federal Governments. There has been chronic under-reporting of threatened and endangered shark species caught since the Queensland Government abandoned an independent observer program in 2012. Earlier this year, the Federal Government also denied protection of the scalloped hammerhead shark, allowing it to be fished in the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Dr. Leonardo Guida, Senior Shark Campaigner at AMCS said, "Years of mismanagement by successive Queensland and Federal Governments have resulted in the devastating loss of up to 92% of Queensland's shark populations. Incredibly, commercial fishers can catch up to 120,000 sharks each year2 in our Great Barrier Reef. Those in the commercial sector who want to increase shark fishing quotas are simply ignoring the science.

"Queensland's east coast fishery is currently under review by the Federal Government, they have an opportunity to stop the damage before it's too late. Sharks are critical to the Reef's health and resilience. This is something we must fix for the Reef right now. Quotas must be slashed. The independent observer program needs to be reinstated so that we can truly understand the impact commercial fishing has on sharks and the Great Barrier Reef.”

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Nicola Beynon, Head of Campaigns at HSI said, "The finding of this study is alarming. Hammerhead shark populations have declined by up to 92%, yet they can still be targeted and fished in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Federal Government has an opportunity to reinstate the full protection of the scalloped hammerhead and avoid an environmental tragedy.

"This is also more scientific evidence against the shark culling program that Queensland operates off its coastline. These long term declines put the dire situation for sharks into perspective and every effort must be put in place to protect sharks not kill them,” concluded Ms Beynon.

Earlier in December, the Australian Senate passed a motion urging the Federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price, to consider the recommendations put forth byAMCS and HSI, and impose strict conditions on Queensland's east coast fishery.

AMCS and HSI are calling on both the Federal and Queensland Governments to act now and avoid having sharks disappear at the cost of the jewel in Australia's marine crown, the Great Barrier Reef.

Additional information:
1. The Queensland-managed East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery is currently undergoing assessment for accreditation as a Wildlife Trade Operation under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act in order to allow the fishery to continue exporting product. The federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price, can attach conditions to the accreditation.
2. Investigations by AMCS and WWF-Australia suggest the number of protected species caught in the fishery is under-reported by commercial fishers.
3. Official shark quota for the Great Barrier Reef sector of the east coast fishery is 480t. This equates to 120,000 individual sharks using a conservative estimate of each shark retained weighing at 4kg.
4. In 2018, the Federal Government passed an amendment to the EPBC allowing for the scalloped hammerhead to be fished from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). Under the GBRMP legislation, any species listed in the EPBC Act is fully protected, irrespective of its EPBC status/category. Currently the scalloped hammerhead qualifies for endangered status in the EPBC Act but is listed as Conservation Dependent, meaning that it can be fished providing certain conditions are followed.


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[1] Roff et al. "Decline of coastal apex shark populations over the past half century”https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-018-0233-1

[2]Conservative estimate based on QLD Fisheries quota of 480t of shark for Great Barrier Reef.

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