Contrary to their reputation, sharks are an increasingly threatened group of animals. Sitting at the top of the food chain, many shark species are not used to being the victim of other predators. Over the millions of years they have swum the oceans, sharks have evolved reproductive strategies that suit animals that would naturally only ever die of old age. Most shark species have K selected reproductive strategies, which makes them more akin to marine mammals than other fish. In other words, they reach sexual maturity late in life, produce few young and only after long gestation periods. This means they are not easily able to replenish their numbers when their mortality rate increases and are extremely vulnerable to over-fishing.
Critically endangered Grey Nurse Shark with large recreational fishing hook caught in its jaw.
- Image courtesy of Steve Thurston 2001
Shark over-fishing is a serious global problem, as species struggle to cope with the increasing demands, for example for fish and chips in the west and for shark fin soup in Asian cuisine. Many shark species are suffering population crashes and local extinctions are becoming common.
HSI works hard to defend threatened sharks and increase their protection both in Australia and internationally. Our shark campaigning efforts include:
- HSI nominations have led to threatened species protection for the Great White and Grey Nurse sharks under NSW, Victorian, Tasmanian and Commonwealth legislation. Both species suffered heavy population losses at the hands of recreational game fishers in the 1970s and 1980s. Even though both species are now protected in most jurisdictions in Australia, they are still caught as incidental bycatch in commercial fisheries and it is suspected that Grey Nurse sharks are often caught by recreational fishermen, both accidentally and intentionally.
- Thanks to HSI's nomination work the Grey Nurse shark is now protected as 'critically endangered' on the east-coast of Australia, receiving the highest level of protection possible for a species under federal law. It is estimated that there may be fewer than 500 Grey Nurse sharks left on the east-coast, so few that they are thought to be having breeding difficulties. HSI is seriously worried that the Grey Nurse shark may become extinct on the east-coast within a few decades.
- HSI campaigned for many years for the protection of critical habitat sites for the Grey Nurse Shark. The 2 in Commonwealth jurisdiction – Solitary Islands and Cod Grounds - are now Marine Protected Areas, while there is differing levels of protection afforded to the sites in QLD and NSW waters. HSI continues to support action to improve protection for these areas – particularly those in NSW waters.
- HSI campaigners are members of the NSW and Federal Recovery Teams for the Grey Nurse and Great White Sharks and advocate the inclusion of strong conservation measures in both governments’ Recovery Plans. We have called for commercial and recreational fishing to be banned in critical habitat sites, the removal of shark control nets which kill rather than exclude sharks from beaches and moratoriums on taking these animals from the wild for aquaria.
- HSI is also a member of the Federal Government's Shark Advisory Group developing Australia's National Plan of Action for Sharks. HSI is promoting measures in the Plan that will bring an end to unsustainable fishing practices such as over-fishing and the wasteful and often cruel practice of finning sharks and throwing their trunks over-board. We are also calling for the National Plan of Action to ensure suitable threatened species protection for the growing number of shark species that need it.
- Thanks to nominations by HSI, beach meshing (shark control nets) have been listed as a Key Threatening Process (KTP) under the both the NSW Fisheries Management Act and the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act due to the threat posed to the grey nurse shark, marine turtles, humpback whales and other wildlife. The NSW Government is now required to develop a Threat Abatement Plan which could phase out the nets and investigate humane and less ecologically damaging alternatives. It is incredible that the NSW Government still operates the program despite the recognition in law that it threatens the survival of protected species.
HSI is proud that our lobbying and media campaigns have already led to shark finning bans in most state and commonwealth waters in Australia. Prior to a ban on finning, Commonwealth tuna fisheries in Australia were catching and finning an estimated 50,000 sharks a year. We are urging the Australian Government to work with countries like the United States that have also introduced finning bans to promote an international ban on the practice. HSI is also working hard to ensure that there is a requirement in all Commonwealth and State fisheries for all sharks to be landed with their fins attached.
On the international front
- HSI lobbying led to Australia pushing for a listing for the Great White Shark at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Great White Shark is highly prized for its jaws, which can fetch tens of thousands of dollars from US and European collectors. The species was listed on Appendix III by Australia at CoP12 and up listed to Appendix II at CoP13.
- HSI is a member of the Species Survival Network Fish Working Group, which is also campaigning for CITES protection for a number of shark species, threatened by international trade for their meat, oil and fins. The Species Survival Network is a coalition of conservation NGOs from around the world seeking protection for species in international trade.
- HSI lobbied for international action to protect the Whale Shark and Great White Shark under the Bonn Convention for Migratory Species (CMS). Such highly migratory species will benefit from a Regional Agreement amongst their range states.
HSI successfully lobbied for an international agreement under the auspices of the CMS Convention to provide protection for the conservation and management of CMS listed shark species. The CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks came into effect on 1 March 2010, following a meeting attended by HSI in Manila. HSI was also an adviser on the Australian Government’s delegation to a meeting to start negotiations for a CMS shark agreement in December 2007. HSI is continuing to work to ensure the development of a Conservation Plan under the MoU.
HSI was instrumental in lobbying for new text to be adopted via a resolution under the United Nations General Assembly on shark finning in 2007, requesting specific measures such as limiting catch or fishing effort, requiring that vessels collect and regularly report data on shark catches, discards and landings, undertaking comprehensive stock assessments of sharks and reducing shark by-catch. In an unprecedented move, the resolution also adopted language to encourage that all sharks should be landed with their fins attached to their carcasses.
HSI continues to lobby for greater bycatch mitigation efforts for sharks at various meetings of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). HSI has attended RFMO meetings as well as the recent Kobe II bycatch workshop in Brisbane in late 2010. Following this workshop, HSI worked with partner NGOs to publish a Compendium of Conservation and Management Measures to address the impacts of species bycatch in tuna RFMOs – a set ofbest practice conservation and management measures for sharks, seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals in tuna fisheries. click here to view the PDF(253.8 kB)To view our detailed Policy recommendations to the Australian Government, see our Shark Conservation Policy
HSI praises China's monumental decision to save sharks
Say no to Shark Fin Products for a Cruelty-free Chinese New YearFebruary 12th 2013 click here
HSI applauds European parliament for voting for close loopholes in EU Shark finning banNovember 23rd 2012 click here
September 28th 2012 click here
Australia joins unprecedented effort for international shark and ray tradeOctober 16th 2012 download PDF
HSI partners in United Nations' global shark conservation agreementOctober 3rd 2012 click hereHSI/Canada congratulates union of British Columbia municipalities for passing historic resolution calling for provincial and federal shark fin bans
September 10 2012 click hereShark attacks and sheep ships: a curious correlation
HSI Canada celebrates three municipal bans on shark fin trade in British ColumbiaSeptember 18th 2012 click herePetition urged the airline to set an example for the sake of shark populations
Radio Interview - A Question of Balance August 28 2012click here
A call for restraint - great white sharks need to be protected
International Lifestyle Magazine Issue 41 download PDF
Great White Shark and live export vessels
July 24th 2012 click here
Hsi identifies a possible connection between shark attacks and live export vessels
July 18th, 2012 click here
WA Shark attacks could be due to live sheep exports - sbs am program
July 18th, 2012 click here
shark cull wanted to end shark attacks - sky news
July 16th, 2012 Video Link
Debate rages over great white - SBS world newsWA Shark cull must be called off
July 3rd, 2012 click hereIllinois becomes fifth U.S. State to ban shark fin trade
July 3rd 2012 click here
Ban shark finning - video
May 28th, 2012 click hereNSW acts to protect hammerhead sharks
May 23, 2012 click here
Shark advocates join New York City council member Margaret Chin to rally for state legislature to protect sharks and oceans
March 18th 2012 download PDF
(122.1 kB)Stop Shark Finning
March 2012 watch videoNew York legislators urged to protect sharks and oceans
February 22, 2012 click hereHSI urges an end to shark nets and the possession and sale of shark fins
January 24, 2012 click hereHSI Statement on Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts shark fin ban
January 18, 2012 click hereHSI commends European Commission for it's proposal to end shark finning
November 22, 2011 click here