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Action Alert - Protect migratory sharks      


Sydney, 25 January 2010

Ask Garrett to protect our migratory sharks


At the end of 2009, Humane Society International celebrated the Federal Government's announcement that it would be listing three species of shark, the shortfin mako, longfin mako and porbeagle, as migratory under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This listing, due to take effect on 29th January 2010, is a requirement of the EPBC Act, following the species' listing in Appendix II of the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS). HSI was an adviser on the Australian Government Delegation to that successful meeting.

Frustratingly, HSI has today learnt that the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, following opposition from recreational fishers, will not be listing the species as migratory under the EPBC Act. HSI is shocked at this gutless approach to shark protection being taken by our Government.

Recreational fishers and the Government now claim that protection in Australia is not necessary, as it is in the Mediterranean these species are most at risk. Whilst it is true that internationally these species are at extreme risk, there is no evidence that the species are fairing any better in Australia. In fact, sufficient concern already exists within the Government for them to undertake an assessment of the shortfin mako conservation status, for listing under the EPBC Act. Unfortunately this assessment has only just got underway, and isn't due for completion until September 2011. The outcomes of this assessment cannot come soon enough for this species.

The Government has always been reticent to provide these migratory sharks with additional protection, only doing so after HSI's lawyers wrote to the Minister advising him of his responsibilities under the Act. It now appears that following vocal complaints from recreational fishers, the Minister has been provided with sufficient ammunition to call off the protection.

This is not only disappointing, but of deep concern for all our marine species. In the face of opposition from a small section of the community the Government is willing to compromise their own legislation. This sets a damaging precedent where the Commonwealth Government is prepared to arbitrarily change long-standing and strong environmental legislative provisions in face of pressure from essentially commercial interests.

Urgent action required

Write to the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, letting him know your views on the protection of our migratory sharks.

Make the following points in your letter:

  • As one of the most threatened groups of marine species due to their vulnerability resulting from slow growth rates, late maturity and slow reproduction rates, migratory sharks require concerted international action to protect them. Australia's move to downgrade the protection afforded to migratory sharks in our waters sends a dangerous signal internationally of our intents on shark conservation.
  • 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity ' “ this is an ideal opportunity to set out the Government's commitments to shark conservation, and not an opportunity to assist in the decline of our shark species.
  • Tell him you expect Australia to enact our federal environmental legislation and protect our migratory sharks, and not to bow to the views of the recreational fishers.
  • Tell him that the EPBC Act requires that he take a precautionary approach towards the protection of our migratory sharks. Unless and until such scientific evidence is available which indicates the populations of these sharks which visit our waters are sufficiently robust to allow fishing to occur, these sharks should be strictly protected as migratory species under the EPBC Act.
  • Tell him that by bowing to the recreational fishers on this issue, it creates a dangerous precedent for other marine conservation efforts, such as the marine bioregional planning process.
The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Or Email: Peter.Garrett.MP@aph.gov.au

Please send us copies of any responses you receive.

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