Sharks: Misunderstood and Maligned

The grey nurse shark was nominated for listing under the EPBC Act by HSI in 2001. The West Coast population is Vulnerable and the East Coast population is Critically Endangered.

For over 420 million years, sharks and rays have roamed Earth’s oceans as vital cogs in ever-changing marine ecosystems.  Over 1,200 species of sharks, rays and chimeras live in our oceans, from small, mid-level links on the food chain to massive apex predators at the very top.


Australian waters are home to 322 species of sharks and rays and 51% of these live nowhere else in the world, making Australia a well-recognised shark and ray biodiversity hot-spot.


Nominated for listing by HSI in 2019, the whitefin swellshark is found only in Australia and is listed Critically Endangered, due to commercial fishing threats.

Despite the ability of sharks and rays to evolve, adapt, diversify and flourish across hundreds of millions of years, less than 100 years of industrial scale fishing, pollution, habitat loss and human conflict has driven many species to the brink of extinction and threatened the survival of many more.


Sharks keep our ocean ecosystems in balance, and it’s vitally important that we work to conserve and recover shark populations in order to safeguard the health of marine ecosystems.  An ocean without sharks is a frightening place.

What HSI is doing

HSI is fully committed to the conservation of sharks and rays in Australia and around the world through our work to end lethal shark control programs, champion threatened species protections and advocate for an end to unsustainable shark fishing.


Ending shark culling programs

Australia’s east coast shark culling programs are outdated, ineffective and disastrous for marine animals. Nets and baited hooks called drumlines entangle and kill hundreds of marine animals including dolphins, whales, turtles, rays and sharks every year in a misguided attempt at public safety. HSI works to bring these  harmful and ineffective programs to an end in favour of modern beach-safety measures like surveillance drones, personal shark deterrents, technology-driven alert systems and education programs.


In 2019, HSI was successful in a legal challenge against the operation of lethal drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef. Now, sharks are no longer able to be shot and killed when caught on drumlines in the Reef. As of 2021, the QLD Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has also begun trials of drone surveillance and non-lethal Catch Alert drumlines as a result of the court decision and public opposition to the culling. Much work remains to be done, but the shooting of sharks in the Great Barrier Reef has ended, and we are confident in securing better outcomes for sharks, marine wildlife, ocean ecosystems, and public safety.


In New South Wales, HSI led an effort that saw a majority of local councils with shark nets installed on their beaches formally call for the shark nets to be removed. Instead they are calling for drone surveillance, SMART drumlines and other non-lethal alternatives. NSW has recently announced a new Shark Management Strategy with significantly increased funding for drones and SMART drumlines and while the shark nets remain for now, progress is being made in the campaign for their removal, thanks to persistent advocacy and community involvement.


Unsustainable fisheries

HSI is an NGO representative in a number of fisheries stakeholder groups where we advocate for better management to prevent the capture of sharks and rays in fisheries and we use awareness raising strategies to reduce demand.



With scientific nominations HSI has secured crucial legal protections for imperilled shark species such as the grey nurse, great white, scalloped hammerhead and school shark, and the Harrison’s, southern and endeavour dogfish, with many more threatened species nominations underway.


We play a significant role in international conservation instruments such as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and CMS (Convention on Migratory Species) to promote the conservation and recovery of threatened shark and ray species and cooperation between the national waters sharks migrate between.


Since 2018 HSI’s shark conservation work in Australia has been supported by the Shark Conservation Fund in a partnership with the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

Together, we can make a difference for sharks.

Help bring an end to the use of outdated shark control methods on the Australian east coast by adding your voice to our petition.


You can join 65,000 like-minded Shark Champions to be kept up to date on opportunities to influence shark protection along with HSI and our partners Australian Marine Conservation Society.


But helping sharks and rays goes beyond that. We can all make better seafood choices, avoiding buying shark (flake) and choosing sustainable alternatives, using your voice to support policies that benefit ocean conservation and reducing our carbon footprint and impact on the oceans.

Take action for sharks

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