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12 February 2014 - HSI files formal international complaint on Australian failure to protect the Great White Shark       


12 February 2014

Humane Society International (HSI) Campaign Director Michael Kennedy said today that, “HSI has been advised that the Commonwealth Government has finally notified the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) of WA’s plans to kill great white sharks, which are provided with the highest levels of protection under this Convention. This follows a 31st January letter to the Convention’s Executive Secretary, Dr Bradnee Chambers in Bonn, Germany, in which HSI lodged a formal complaint on Australia’s failure to meet its international obligations for the great white shark.”

HSI’s legal advisors, the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) in Sydney, had written (22nd January) to Commonwealth Environment Minister Greg Hunt, on behalf of HSI, laying clear the Government’s unquestioned and binding obligations to protect the great white shark under the provisions of the CMS treaty.

Mr Kennedy said that, “The CMS Executive Secretary, Dr Chambers had previously written to Minister Hunt in late December 2013 about the issue, but it would appear that the Minister has only contacted the Convention this week, amounting to a dereliction of Australia’s immediate treaty obligations.”

HSI has received a response from the Convention Secretariat (Head of UNEP/CMS Aquatic Species Team, Melanie Virtue) on Australia’s obligations relating to the great white shark, which notes that, “the Convention prohibits the taking of such species except under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ ,” and that, “The ‘extraordinary circumstances’ clause in paragraph 5d of Article III of the Convention, has not been invoked by a CMS Party, to the best of my knowledge.

Mr Kennedy said that, “The legal and scientific advice is clear, the ‘extraordinary circumstance’ provisions under both the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 (which Mr Hunt has already utilised) and CMS, cannot be applied to WA’s shark culling program. The fact that it has taken Australia more than two months to write to the CMS Secretariat is an indication of their failure to consider all the legal obligations relating to the WA shark cull.”

Mr Kennedy continued, “It is clear that the Convention obliges Australia to prohibit the ‘take’ of great white sharks, an obligation phrased to apply to both species-level harm and individual animals. The obligation to protect is an absolute obligation, where ‘taking’ is defined by the Convention as ‘taking, hunting, fishing, capturing, harassing, deliberate killing, or attempting to engage in any such conduct’. Given the fact that Australia was responsible for the listing of the great white shark in 2002, and has been actively involved in the negotiations leading to the establishment of the CMS Sharks MOU*, it is clear that Australia has moved far from its previous world recognised position of being a leader on shark conservation.”

Mr Kennedy concluded that, “The Convention Secretariat has said that it is ready to assist the Australian Government, stating that, ‘The Secretariat certainly has the mandate to facilitate international cooperation on the subject of mitigating threats to humans in ways not detrimental to the threatened shark populations.’ HSI calls upon Minister Hunt to work with the Secretariat to organise such a gathering of international experts at the earliest possible opportunity.”

“Before a threatened great white shark is killed by the WA culling program, Minister Hunt must rescind the exemption provided to the WA Government under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999, and inform the CMS Executive Secretary that the cull will be discontinued. HSI fully supports a move in the Senate today by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert to have the exemption revoked.”


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