AUSTRALIA BUCKS THE PACIFIC TREND TO PROTECT SHARKS
March 16th, 2018
Frydenberg fails to protect endangered hammerhead sharks from fin trade
It has been made public that Federal Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg, will allow endangered1 hammerhead sharks to continue to be deliberately killed in Australia for meat and fin exports, including from the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef. This is in stark contrast to Australia’s Pacific Island neighbour Samoa2, which recently became the 8th nation in the region to declare its entire national waters a sanctuary for all sharks.
Humane Society International nominations prompted three hammerhead species to be assessed for listing as threatened under Australia’s national environment law in order to protect them from fishing. Minister Frydenberg has decided to allow fishing and exports to continue for all three species.
“Our nominations gave the Minister the chance to protect these unique and iconic sharks in Australia and he decided not to,” said Humane Society International Marine Scientist Jessica Morris. “This means the fins of hammerhead sharks from Australia and the Great Barrier Reef will continue to be exported for shark fin soup.”
Despite confirmation by the Minister’s own advisers that the scalloped hammerhead meets the criteria for endangered due to a 50-80% decline in population, they unfortunately also advised the Minister he could opt for a ‘conservation dependent’ listing to allow fishing to continue. The Minister chose that option, and also gave no listings to the smooth and great hammerheads sharks meaning they will receive no protection.
“The Minister has opted for the least protection for hammerhead sharks available under Australian law. It is out of step with international shark conservation efforts and the management provisions asked of the state governments are inadequate3,” said Ms Morris.
“The ‘conservation dependent’ category was included in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to give environment ministers an opt out clause for commercial fish when they inconveniently become endangered – it’s a category to allow continued fishing for species that would normally qualify for strict protection.
“Humane Society International says Australia should be taking the example of our Pacific Island neighbours who have realised sharks are extremely vulnerable to fishing pressure, are essential to healthy marine ecosystems, and need to be protected,” concluded Ms Morris.
1: IUCN – the international body that classifies the global threat status for species lists the scalloped hammerhead and great hammerheads as endangered and the smooth hammerhead as vulnerable to extinction. The UN Convention on Migratory Species lists the scalloped and great hammerheads on its Appendices requiring countries to cooperate in their conservation. The scalloped and great hammerheads are listed under the NSW Fisheries Management Act as endangered and vulnerable respectively and have been restricted from take in commercial and recreational fisheries since 2012.
2: Samoa’s shark sanctuary at 128,000 sq km increases the total area in established as shark sanctuaries in the Pacific islands to an estimated 17 million sq. km. This consists of the EEZs of the Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, and Samoa. http://www.sprep.org/biodiversity-ecosystems-management/samoa-establishes-a-sanctuary-for-sharks-and-rays-in-its-national-waters
3: Fisheries within the GBR state that hammerhead sharks are only taken as a byproduct, non-target catch that is able to sold and exported commercially. However, they consistently have high catch rates of hammerheads with those for 2014/15 the highest ever recorded. Clearly the species is targeted. Furthermore, Queensland’s latest recreational fishing survey indicates approximately 29,000 hammerheads were captured by fishers; not to mention the tens of thousands of hammerheads killed in Queensland’s shark control program since the 1960s.