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Global reef shark study highlights importance of shark conservation in Australia

Global reef shark study highlights importance of shark conservation in Australia
July 24, 2020

With shark populations crashing across many of the world’s coral reefs, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI) say the research, published in Nature, underscores how important it is that Australia looks after its shark populations.

AMCS advise that “Australia  cannot be complacent because there are still serious shark conservation issues within our World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and we don’t want our shark populations to follow the same path.”

New research which shows that sharks have almost disappeared from a number of reefs around the world highlights the importance of conservation efforts to support their populations marine conservationists say.

The study found that in some countries sharks have been so depleted that they were now ‘functionally extinct’. It said Australia was among the nations with relatively healthier reef shark populations on our tropical reefs.

Dr Leonardo Guida, shark scientist and spokesperson for AMCS, said there's plenty of room for improvement in shark conservation in Australia with ongoing issues, such as fishing for critically endangered shark species on our Great Barrier Reef.

Dr Guida notes “the study shows that Australia is comparing favourably to countries where sharks are alarmingly disappearing from reefs. Australia’s relatively good performance is due to decades of science-based conservation efforts and advocacy by scientists and organisations like AMCS and HIS.

“But research is also telling us that several of our shark species are declining in our waters so we shouldn’t be resting on our laurels when it comes to managing threats like destructive fishing practices and global warming.

“We need the Queensland government to introduce long overdue fisheries reforms such as gillnetting, overfishing, illegal fishing in our Great Barrier Reef - these impact shark species like the critically endangered scalloped hammerhead as well as turtles and dugongs.”

Lawrence Chlebeck, marine biologist with HSI said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s 2019 Outlook Report found the future for iconic Reef wildlife including sharks was failing to improve with fishing pressures and removal of apex predators as key threats.

Chlebeck adds “sharks are essential to our Reef because they help bring ecosystem balance and health, in turn bringing significant economic benefits to Queensland.

“The Queensland Government needs to stop culling sharks. The science shows it doesn't improve bather safety and only further harms our fragile marine ecosystems.”

AMCS and HSI are currently running a joint campaign “Shark Champions” supported by the Shark Conservation Fund, which is seeking to improve the conservation of sharks by improving the sustainability of Australia’s fisheries and environmental laws.

Original paper can be accessed at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2519-y

Image of critically endangered scalloped hammerhead courtesy of NSW Department of Primary Industries  

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6th November 2018 - Third Whitsundays shark attack leads to fatality

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