Humane Society International (HSI) and the NSW Nature Conservation Council (NCC) have launched a campaign to end targeted shark fishing in Australia and a ban on the export of their fins.
The media is currently engaging in its usual summer frenzy of shark attack stories and sensationalising anecdotal reports from non-experts that sharks are in plague proportions. This is far from the truth.
Shark populations are in deep trouble in Australia and around the world, struggling to keep up with escalating demand for their meat and fins. Scientists have found that the global biomass of large predatory fish species such as sharks has decreased by 90%.
HSI and NCC say that, just as Australia realised in the late 1970s dramatic declines in whale numbers meant we could not hunt whales sustainably, we must accept that the same is true of sharks.
With their slow reproductive capabilities, sharks are much more akin to whales than they are to other fish. This means that, like the whales, sharks are extremely prone to over-fishing and it is not prudent to hunt them.
The IUCN, the international body that determines the conservation status of species says that of the 1,046 species of sharks and their relatives around the world approximately 17% are threatened with extinction, 13% are considered ‘near threatened', and we simply do not know the status of a further 47%.
In Australia seven species of shark are protected as threatened, four more are being considered for protection as threatened species because fishing has driven their populations so low. The IUCN has warned that further shark species targeted in Australian fisheries are threatened with extinction and the status of many more is of serious concern or dangerously unknown. Scientists are also warning that climate change may pose even more serious problems for sharks because of changes in the foodchain.
Despite grave concerns for the health of shark populations, shark fishing is on the increase in Australia, largely to feed the surging demand for fins in Asia.
It is incredible that in this day and age Australia still allows the large-scale hunting of endangered animals.
Australia is famous for its sharks and the Federal Government has championed international protection for select species such as the great white and the whale shark.
HSI and NCC are calling on the Australian Government to take a strong leadership position on international shark conservation and bring an end to targeted fishing for all shark species in Australian waters and a ban on the export of fins.
Once targeted shark fishing is phased out, all efforts can focus on developing technologies to prevent the thousands of sharks that are killed as ‘incidental' bycatch in Australian fisheries and to address illegal shark fishing.
Read the HSI/NCC media release issued 14/01/09. Download PDF (178 kB)
Read HSI's recommendations for stronger shark protection laws and policies in Australia. Download PDF (145 kB)
Photo courtesy of EcoDivers
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