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2 March 2009 - Sharks under attack      

SHARKS UNDER ATTACK                                                                                                                                                                

Sydney, 2 March 2009                              
                                                                                                                                              

Following the most recent shark attack on a teenager off Sydney’s northern beaches, disingenuous claims by the media, political parties, the fishing lobby, surf monitoring organisations and zoos have continued to build the hysteria surrounding sharks off Sydney’s beaches.

“There is no question that any attack of this nature is extremely unfortunate and we sympathise fully with the young man and his family,” said Mr Kennedy. “It is deplorable however that NSW Shadow Minister for Industry Duncan Gay, and various representatives of the fishing industry, are taking advantage of the recent tragic shark attacks to argue for an increase in commercial shark killing quotas, especially as these fisheries involve completely different species that are not known to have fatally attacked humans in Australian waters such as mako, wobbegong, hammerheads and gummy sharks.”

Despite the rampant anecdotal scare-mongering being pedalled by sensationalist press, there is no scientific evidence that shark populations, in Australian or international waters, are increasing or even healthy, as confirmed by CSIRO. Shark species continue to be in serious trouble around the world as they struggle to cope with escalating fishing pressure and rising demand for their fins.

This has led scientists to estimate that the global biomass of large predatory fish species such as sharks has decreased by a massive 90%. In Australia, seven species of shark are protected as threatened and four more are being considered for protection because fishing has driven their populations so low. The situation is so dire that the authoritative World Conservation Union has upgraded the threat level for several shark species actively targeted in Australian fisheries, such as the scalloped hammerhead, bronze whaler, bull shark, tiger shark, school shark, short and long fin mako and many others.

We support practical measures to avoid interactions with sharks, such as avoiding swimming at dusk and dawn, as promoted by both the NSW Fisheries Minister Ian Macdonald and Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett. Yet Duncan Gay continues to flog the old and erroneous chestnut that the use of shark nets should be increased along the NSW coastline.

“Duncan Gay has apparently failed to notice that two of the most recent attacks have occurred on meshed beaches,” said Mr Kennedy. “Along with the great number of sharks that are caught on the beach side of nets, these interactions have shown that the nets are an ineffective means of protecting swimmers. Meanwhile, their bycatch of innocent marine species, including threatened species such as grey nurse sharks, continues to escalate, reinforcing the reasons why shark nets are recognised in NSW law as a key threat to a range of marine species.”

HSI has long and successfully campaigned for state, national and international protection of shark species, and has been a key player in ensuring the protection of great white, grey nurse, whale,  basking and school sharks (through the courts) nationally and internationally. HSI also maintains an active position on the Commonwealth’s National Shark Recovery Group, and is currently proposing further protection for hammerhead, bull, tiger, dusky whaler, mako, thresher, sandbar, and bronze whaler sharks domestically, as well as school, gulper, requiem, hammerhead and mako sharks internationally.





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