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5 October 2006 - Conservationists in crisis talks over shark in peril       

Conservationists in crisis talks over shark in peril

Sydney, 5 October 2006 

Conservationists, divers and scientists are holding crisis talks in Sydney today to try and save the grey nurse shark from impending extinction.

Frustrations are running high over the NSW Government’s failure to recognise the urgency of the situation for the critically endangered species. Scientists predict the iconic and once common shark could be extinct in NSW within a decade. “The meeting is considering legal action to force the NSW Government to protect the species in time”, said Nicola Beynon from Humane Society International.

On average one grey nurse shark is known to die a month due to human induced causes from a population that numbers in the low hundreds and breeds very slowly. This death toll may be the tip of the iceberg as most shark fatalities go unreported.

It has long been an urgent recommendation to remove fishing from the shark’s 16 key habitat sites along the NSW coast line. Line fishing is recognised in NSW law as a Key Threat to the species. Yet line fishing by commercial and recreational fishermen is still allowed in some form at all sites.

The NSW Government is currently considering sanctuary level protection at 6 of the critical habitat sites in marine parks being created in the Port Stephens and Bateman’s Bay regions. A small, vocal anti marine park lobby are campaigning against it, leaving conservationists concerned the NSW Government will compromise and the sanctuaries may not be adequate in size. “The grey nurse shark is going extinct, it is no time for compromises”, said Andrew Cox, National Parks Association of NSW.

“More concerning is that the NSW Government has not got around to even considering sanctuary protection for important grey nurse critical habitat sites at Maroubra, South West Rocks and Mermaid Reef”, said Megan Kessler, Nature Conservation Council of NSW. “South West Rocks provides a vital refuge for large aggregations of grey nurse sharks and a significant percentage of them are seen with horrific and potentially fatal hook injuries caused by the fishing industry”, said Peter Hitchins from South West Rocks Dive Centre.

“Grey nurse sharks cannot afford to wait for the NSW Government to drag it’s heals in removing line fishing from all 16 key habitat sites”, said Gilly Llewellyn WWF Australia.

“Whereas conservationists have little hope for a radical IVF program for the grey nurse being funded by the NSW Government, preferring to see the money spent on conventional conservation in the wild. We know habitat protection and threat removal save species when governments take action before it’s too late”, said The Hon Ian Cohen, Greens MLC.

Web: AndreasLustig.com