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7 June 2010 - Fisheries bycatch killing our wildlife      

Fisheries bycatch killing our wildlife

7th June 2010    

Each year on the 8th June we celebrate World Oceans Day, however it is clear that our oceans are increasingly being stripped of threatened species caught in fisheries and labelled as ‘bycatch’.

Bycatch is the catch of species other than that being targeted, and in many fisheries in Australia the bycatch of threatened species is alarming. Many species of seabirds, sea turtles, sharks and marine mammals are in decline and being listed as threatened as a direct result of the large numbers of these animals being caught and killed on hooks and in nets of Australian fisheries.

“The bycatch of threatened species is one of increasing concern worldwide and urgent action needs to be taken by the Australian Government” said Alexia Wellbelove of Humane Society International. “Our threatened marine species have the right to protection in their own environment from fishing activities”.

“While some progress has been made in some fisheries, other fisheries continue to extol a heavy toll on threatened species. HSI is therefore calling on the Australian Government to urgently adopt further measures to reduce the impacts of fishing on all threatened species”, said Nicola Beynon of Humane Society International.

Recent scientific analysis shows that the rate of bycatch in Australian fisheries is still high as demonstrated by the table below



Estimated total bycatch

Black-browed albatross

Endangered (IUCN)

Vulnerable (EPBC Act)


Shy albatross

Near threatened (IUCN)

Vulnerable (EPBC Act)


Leatherback turtle

Critically endangered (IUCN)

Endangered (EPBC Act)


Short-fin mako

Vulnerable (IUCN)

Under consideration (EPBC Act)


Blue shark

Near threatened (IUCN)

Unlisted (EPBC Act)



Australian Sea Lion

Endangered (IUCN)

Vulnerable (EPBC Act)


*See notes below

“The continuing catch of these threatened species in our fisheries is unacceptable” continued Ms Beynon. “HSI is calling on the Australian Government to take a leadership role to fix up bycatch in all Australian fisheries and to champion bycatch mitigation measures in all relevant international meetings, so that the problem of bycatch can be eliminated”.

Later this month, Australia will be hosting an international meeting in Brisbane focusing on bycatch in tuna fisheries. This is an excellent opportunity for Australia to showcase the efforts it is taking to prevent bycatch of threatened species in some fisheries and commit to implementing further bycatch reduction management measures in all its fisheries.

A recent report ranked Australia 32nd out of 53 countries based on the performance of its fisheries on a number of sustainability factors***. It is clear that much more needs to be done to ensure the sustainability of Australian fisheries more generally. 

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