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28th June - MPs shark scaremongering for votes reflects cheap politics and scientific ignorance      



28th June 2017

Humane Society International has condemned the recent move by the Liberal Party’s federal council to lift protection of the great white shark if population data to be released later this year comes back to show it is no longer endangered.

“This kind of political display ignores current and available evidence which shows that the Australian population of white sharks is well under the 10,000 figure required for Federal listing as a vulnerable species. There is no scientific evidence that great white populations are increasing, or increasing sufficiently to require delisting, and available science shows us that global great white shark populations are in decline. Informing policy decisions on the rabid speculation of fisherman and media commentators is not useful to the management of threatened species populations in this country and simply permits politicians to play dirty politics,” said Humane Society International Marine Scientist, Jessica Morris.

The great white shark is listed as vulnerable under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for a population with less than 10,000 individuals. The most recent data from August of 2015 found that the number on the east coast of Australia could be as low as 750-1200*. Humane Society International was the organisation that nominated the species for the protection it now receives under Commonwealth, New South Wales, and Victorian and Tasmanian law.

“The idea behind threatened listings is NOT to build population numbers up again so that they can then be fished back to vulnerable levels. We want to see populations for species like the great white recovering, because they are an important apex-predator that is critical to managing healthy ocean ecosystems,” continued Ms Morris.

A population survey is being conducted by the CSIRO’s Barry Bruce, however the data is likely not to be released until later this year. The whole point of the Commonwealth legislative exercise is to recover the species to its former ecological health. Killing great white sharks should never be permitted again in Australia.

“It is unlikely that the data will come back showing such an increase in population levels of the white shark that the species is no longer listed as threatened, as white sharks are slow-growing and have a low reproductive rate. It is also questionable that the Federal Minister for Environment would be able to remove the great white as a vulnerable species in Australia due to the fact it is currently listed as threatened in four Australian states and the international community’s recognition of the need to protect the species which has seen it listed under CMS (the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species) and also listed on Appendix II of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora),” continued Ms Morris.

Humane Society International is also warning that media reports on the issue focusing on anecdotal accounts of great white sharks do nothing to actually help protect swimmers and surfers in the oceans.

“Politicians and media commentators like Fred Pawle from The Australian have come out on the attack, pitting human life against sharks – but the truth is that our beaches are as safe as they ever were, while the scientific fact is that killing sharks will NOT better protect the Australian public. Taking proactive non-lethal approaches to bather protection is the way forward instead of emotion driven policies that are destructive to the very environments that sustain us,” concluded Ms Morris.

*White Shark population and abundance trends, National Environment and Research Program, 2015 (http://nerpmarinebiodiversity2015.report/white-shark-population-and-abundance-trends)


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