The waters around Australia contain many species of sharks. Although
most species are not dangerous to humans, in a number of tragic cases people
who encounter those that are have suffered serious injuries or been killed.
These encounters, or concerns about the potential for them, have led to the implementation
of measures intended to promote public safety, some of which are designed to be
lethal to sharks but can also result in the unwanted capture of other marine
life. Although lethal measures are in place in certain parts of the country,
Australian governments have, over many years, contributed to global
conservation efforts in response to concerns about declining shark populations.
Australia is party to international agreements that seek to ensure shark
populations are managed sustainably and some shark species are protected under Commonwealth
Essentially, this inquiry examines the effectiveness of the lethal and
non‑lethal measures taken in Australia to protect the public from
dangerous species of sharks. In doing so, the committee explores how the public
safety measures, shark conservation efforts and Commonwealth environmental law interact;
considers whether the current arrangements represent the most desirable and
effective response; and looks to the future to understand developments that may
improve public safety significantly without harming the marine environment.
On 30 November 2016, the Senate referred the following matter to the
Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report:
The efficacy and regulation of
shark mitigation and deterrent measures, with particular reference to:
- research into shark numbers,
behaviour and habitat;
the regulation of mitigation and
deterrent measures under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act 1999, including exemptions from a controlled action under
the range of mitigation and
deterrent measures currently in use;
emerging mitigation and deterrent
bycatch from mitigation and
alternatives to currently employed
mitigation and deterrent measures, including education;
the impact of shark attacks on
tourism and related industries; and
- any other relevant matters.
The committee was initially required to report by 30 June 2017. However,
on 19 June 2017, the Senate granted an extension of time to report until 29
On 28 November 2017, the reporting date was extended further to 12 December
Conduct of the inquiry
In accordance with its usual practice, the committee advertised the
inquiry on its website and wrote to relevant individuals and organisations
inviting submissions. The date for receipt of submissions was 3 March 2017.
The committee received 78 submissions, which are listed at Appendix 1. In addition
to the detailed submissions, a form letter from 223 individuals was received
The committee held ten public hearings for this inquiry, as
Sydney, 16 March 2017 and 17 March 2017;
Perth, 20 April 2017 and 28 July 2017;
Byron Bay, 2 May 2017;
Brisbane, 31 July 2017;
Cairns, 29 August 2017;
Townsville, 30 August 2017; and
Canberra, 20 October 2017 and 14 November 2017.
A list of witnesses who appeared at the hearings is at Appendix 2.
The public submissions and transcripts of evidence are available on the
committee's website at www.aph.gov.au/senate_ec.
The committee thanks all of the individuals, organisations and Commonwealth
government departments and agencies that contributed to the inquiry.
The committee is particularly grateful to the individuals personally
affected by shark bite incidents who were prepared to discuss their experiences
with the committee at the public hearings. These individuals included: Mr Dale
Carr, who was bitten in August 2015; Mr Rick Gerring, whose brother died in May
2016 as the result of a shark attack; and Dr Sharon Burden, whose 21‑year-old
son died in a shark attack in 2011. The committee also received evidence from
individuals involved in the response to shark bites.
As this inquiry examined issues involving matters of both Commonwealth
and state government responsibility, the committee sought and received evidence
from certain state governments. This included written evidence from the Queensland
and South Australian governments, and the then Premier of Western Australia,
the Hon Colin Barnett. Evidence was also given at a public hearing by
Hon David Kelly MLA, Western Australian Minister for Fisheries, and officers of
his department. The committee wishes to record its appreciation to these
state governments for the assistance provided during this inquiry.
Structure of the report
This report comprises eight chapters, as follows:
Chapter 1—this chapter has outlined introductory matters
regarding the referral and conduct of the inquiry. The remaining sections of
the chapter provide background information about sharks in Australian waters
and the legal framework that applies to shark protection and conservation.
Chapter 2 considers the frequency of human–shark interactions in
Australian waters. The chapter also explores various other matters, such as
public awareness and fear of sharks, and the available evidence about the
impact of shark bites on regional tourism.
Chapter 3 presents an overview of existing shark mitigation and
deterrent measures used in Australia, including both non-lethal measures (such
as surf lifesaving and aerial surveillance) and the lethal shark control
programs operated by some state governments.
Chapter 4 continues with the discussion of lethal shark control
programs by examining the conflicting points of view about whether such
programs are effective.
Chapter 5 examines the Commonwealth's responsibilities with
respect to the lethal shark control programs arising under the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Chapter 6 addresses the evidence received about new and emerging
technologies that may provide beachgoers with more effective protection from
dangerous sharks while also minimising any impact on the marine environment.
Chapter 7 continues on the topic of alternative methods for
managing the risk of human–shark interactions by examining evidence received about
other approaches that are not necessarily dependent on new technology, such as shark
spotting and education programs. The chapter also outlines the evidence
received on whether new, emerging or other approaches to shark management are,
at this time, able offer reliable protection.
Chapter 8 contains the committee's conclusions and
In addition, Appendix 3 to the report presents a selection of myths and
misconceptions about sharks. These myths were discussed during public hearings
and are highlighted in this report as it was argued that they have implications
for informed policymaking about sharks.
Shark numbers, species, behaviour and habitat
The following section provides background information about the types of
sharks that can be found in Australian waters.
Around 180 species of sharks can be found in Australian waters.
Most sharks live in marine environments, however, a small number of species
have adapted to freshwater habitats, such as the Northern River shark (Glyphis
garricki) and speartooth shark (Glyphis glyphis) found in northern
Sharks comprise around one per cent of all fishes and 'share nearly all
the major features of their finned relatives', including the use of gills to
extract oxygen from water.
The following information published by the Department of
the Environment and Energy (DoEE) provides an overview of the feeding
habits of sharks in Australian waters:
Most sharks are predators. Many sharks species become active
after dusk and hunt during the night. The majority of sharks feed on other
fishes. Large sharks, such as the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) and
tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), prey on large marine mammals such as
seals, sea-lions, dolphins as well as large fishes, turtles and even sea birds.
While some sharks are probably not very selective feeders,
certain sharks eat some foods more than others. For example, hammerhead sharks
are known for eating stingrays; bull sharks eat other sharks; and smooth
dogfish eat crabs and lobsters.
Not all shark species are dangerous to humans. Available data indicate
that the overwhelming majority of shark bites in Australia, including 99 per
cent of fatalities, can be attributed to three species of sharks: the white
shark (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
and bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas).
Information published by the DoEE suggests that, at present, it is understood
that the shark species known to be dangerous to humans do not target humans as
prey, instead 'the majority of shark attacks can be attributed to the shark
confusing us with its normal prey'.
Potentially declining shark populations has been a matter of concern for
a sustained period, as demonstrated by the 1999 United Nations International
Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks. Concerns about shark
numbers and the need for shark conservation follow overexploitation of certain
shark species, with their recovery affected by 'slow rates of growth, late
age-at-maturity and low fecundity compared with bony fishes'.
Globally, sharks are harvested for meat, fins, skin, cartilage and liver, with
shark meat and fins used for food, shark skin primarily used for leather,
cartilage used for food and in the pharmaceutical industry, and liver 'mostly
used to extract oils and other hydrocarbons, which have been used in a wide
array of industries throughout history'.
Approximately one-quarter of the total number of shark species are threatened
with an elevated risk of extinction, largely due to over-fishing, including as
In addition to fishing activity that targets shark species, sharks are
also caught as bycatch by fishing efforts directed at other marine species.
Shark populations are also vulnerable as a result of recreational fishing,
habitat degradation and shark control activities.
As at October 2017, nine shark species are classified under the EPBC Act
as threatened species due to declining populations. In particular, the east
coast population of the grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) and the
speartooth shark (Glyphis glyphis) are listed as critically endangered
species. The white shark is listed as vulnerable.
In relation to the white shark, it is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Red List of Threatened Species.
The DoEE advised that is was first listed as vulnerable under Commonwealth
legislation in 1997 under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.
This listing was transferred to the EPBC Act's threatened species list in 2001.
The DoEE noted that the white shark 'is also provided legislative protection
under state and territory legislation throughout its range in coastal waters,
and is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species and Convention on Migratory Species conventions'.
Many submitters noted that accurate information about the population of
shark species is limited. As noted by CSIRO, there 'are no current reliable
estimates of population size in Australian waters for white, bull or tiger
sharks'. CSIRO explained that these species have not been the primary focus of
commercial fisheries, and the conventional data required to produce reliable
estimates 'such as detailed catch records over suitable time periods, is
limited, unreliable or non-existent'.
White sharks have been protected in Australian waters since
the late 1990s, but data on their historical and contemporary catch has been
poorly recorded and is inadequate for estimating population size or trend. Bull
and tiger sharks have not been the focus of targeted research to estimate
population size in Australian waters, although analyses of tiger sharks
captured in the Queensland Shark Control Program...indicate significant declines
in catch rates and average size between 1993 and 2010...
The SEA LIFE Trust explained that a lack of information on population
status of white sharks is a global problem that is not just limited to
Australia. The SEA LIFE Trust submitted:
The population status in
Australia, and globally, is...poorly known owing to a lack of robust abundance
indicators. Quantitative stock assessments are not possible. The Great White
Shark is, however, uncommon compared to other sharks and evidence (from game
fishing, bycatch, shark netting or from observational data) indicates a
declining global population.
Evidence suggests that the population may have declined by at
least 20% over the last three generations and, in some areas, the species is
considered to have declined even more substantially over the same period.
Regarding white sharks, in 2014 CSIRO and partners in the National
Environmental Science Program 'reported the first ever empirical estimate of
adult white shark abundance—provisionally 750 to 1,200 adult white sharks for
the eastern Australia population'. CSIRO added that subsequent data and
refinements to the analysis 'suggest that the figure is more likely to be at
the lower end of this scale'.
CSIRO further added that the total population of white sharks is likely around
ten times the adult population.
Dr Daniel Bucher and Professor Peter Harrison also referred to the
recent estimate of the east coast population of adult white sharks. However, Dr
Bucher and Professor Harrison noted that 'there are no estimates for juvenile
and sub-adult white sharks, which are the size categories (2.0–3.5 m) generally
found in coastal waters and implicated in recent events'. Overall their joint
submission concluded that:
There is...historical evidence of a greater decline in white
shark numbers than other shark species and no current evidence supporting a
recovery in numbers...Furthermore, it is widely acknowledged that many large
shark species (>2 m) are unable to increase their populations rapidly due to
life history characteristics such as slow growth, late maturity and low
Other submitters also provided reasons supporting the proposition that
there has been a long‑term decline in the white shark population. Sharksafe
Barrier, a South African company that supplies eco-friendly barriers
designed to separate humans from sharks (these devices are discussed in Chapter
White sharks have long lifespan, slow growth, have low
estimated fecundity, and low natural mortality within the marine ecosystem
(only orca are known to prey on adult white sharks in areas where the two
species overlap). It is therefore believed that increasing conflict with man during
the past century is the main cause of population declines of this ancient top‑predator.
Sharksafe Barrier added that there are three key human-related drivers
of declining white shark populations: depleted food resources, bioaccumulation
of pollutants and lethal beach protection measures.
Some individuals, however, questioned how assessments about the
conservation status of shark species, particularly the white shark, can be made
when reliable population information is not available. For example, Mr John
Heaton, a resident of the New South Wales north coast, submitted:
I keep hearing from shark experts and scientists that world-wide,
Great White numbers are still low. However the frustrating thing is that
no expert, scientist or organisation can say how many Great Whites are actually
travelling along the east coast of Australia and/or is that number adequate or
not for the marine habitat. Local professional fisher people tell me the ocean
off the North Coast of NSW coastline is teeming with sharks, including Great
A similar sentiment was expressed by a Western Australian resident:
Scientists do not know the numbers of great white sharks.
Daily WA ocean users see the evidence of increasing numbers and this 'local
knowledge' cannot be discounted. Old time fishermen who have fished off our
coast all their lives say the ocean off Perth and our south west is now teeming
with sharks, including great whites. It is common sense that great white
numbers have increased since they became a protected species in 1997.
This coincided with an increase in the migrating whale population and the
decline of our commercial fishing fleet. The decision to close the Perth
fishery was a foolish one because it was an economically efficient way to
manage great white numbers.
Mr Donald Munro remarked that commercial fishers on the east coast
suggest that the estimate referred to in paragraph 1.26 'is a mile out'. Mr
It is a little bit hard for me to come to grips with the fact
that with today's technology they cannot get a more accurate figure. We could
stick a man on the moon in 1969 and bring him back, for God's sake. This is
2017. So it is frustrating, but definitely, categorically I will state that
direct information from commercial fishermen particularly...is that the numbers
are way up.
However, scientists involved in shark research and other stakeholders
cast doubt on claims regarding significant increases in white shark numbers and
explained that there are particular difficulties associated with studying white
sharks. For example, in response to the suggestion that coastal waters are
'teeming' with white sharks, Professor Nic Bax, a senior principal research
scientist at CSIRO stated:
...given the life history strategies of the white shark—and
you're looking at the life history parameters—it would be hard to imagine that
their growth rate could be more than about four per cent a year. So an
explosion in that sense, four per cent a year, depending on how you consider a
four per cent increase, is the maximum rate of increase we would expect given
the shark demographics...And, of course, we have no evidence that it is
increasing at four per cent. It could be decreasing at four per cent. We don't
Other submitters also asserted that anecdotes about shark populations
are not credible. For example, Humane Society International(HSI) submitted:
There is a limited amount of data on white shark population
numbers, behaviour and habitat preferences. We note that while there have been
claims in the media of 'increases' in white shark numbers in Australia, these
anecdotal reports have not been verified by scientists who work specifically
with the species. Presentations during the 2015 NSW Shark Summit focused on the
lack of evidence of any kind of surge in white shark numbers. The Summit
addressed the fact that the species continues to be listed under federal law as
vulnerable to extinction. It seems that in the case of the white shark, opinion
is given credence over evidence.
Professor Jessica Meeuwig argued that it is 'unlikely that there has
been a population boom in white sharks, given their basic, fundamental
After noting that white sharks only start reproducing between 17–20 years
of age and 'have one or two offspring every couple years', Professor Meeuwig emphasised
that white sharks 'are just not capable of rapid rebound like a herring or a
Professor Meeuwig added that anecdotal information about increases in
shark populations could be linked to an increase in sampling efforts; that is,
a greater number of people being in the water results in a higher number of
In addition, Professor Bucher commented that the number of observations might
be affected as people 'tend to remember the big things, the shocking things';
Professor Bucher added that people will remember when they see a shark but will
not 'remember so much how many times [they] did not see a shark'.
Changes in the areas favoured by sharks could also be resulting in an
increased frequency of shark observations. Professor Meeuwig explained that
climate change could affect the distribution of animals on which sharks prey,
leading to white sharks approaching the coast but not being indicative of an
overall increase in the population.
On the difficulties in studying white sharks, Professor Colin
Simpfendorfer told the committee:
All species can provide challenges. As technology has
developed we have become much better at doing it. But some of the challenges
are that it is a very big ocean and there is not a huge number of white sharks,
for example, out there. So finding them and studying them when you find them is
difficult. The other challenge they present is that they move over vast
distances. We have white sharks that swim regularly between Australia and New
Zealand, for example. When you are moving over that sort of distance, it is a
challenge to understand what is going on. Technology also only gives us answers
about so many bits and pieces.
Ms Tooni Mahto from the Australian Marine
Conservation Society (AMCS) emphasised the need to consider the migratory
nature of species such as white sharks when considering population estimates.
Ms Mahto stated:
White sharks move. They are migratory animals and travel huge
distances across the oceans. They are not permanent residents at any location
around our coastline. So sporadic anecdotal increases in particular locations
are not an indication of a population increase and are more likely the result
of changes in prey distribution in their physical environment.
Nevertheless, given the scientific uncertainty about the white shark
population, some submitters questioned how future decisions about categorising
the white shark as a listed threatened species under the EPBC Act could be
Despite advising that the lack of reliable data means it is 'not
currently possible to say' if the populations of bull, tiger or white sharks
are increasing, decreasing or stable, CSIRO informed the committee that
research is underway to develop means for obtaining white shark population
estimates. CSIRO explained that it is undertaking research in a partnership
under the National Environmental Science Program with the aim of developing,
applying and refining 'novel techniques for estimating total population size
for white sharks in Australian waters'.
CSIRO added that data collected for the 2014 estimate of adult white shark
abundance for the eastern Australia population are being 'further developed to
give an estimate of total population size' as well as to extract information
about the juveniles in the population.
The data collected from this process will support the recovery plan for the
white shark (which is discussed in Chapter 5).
CSIRO also noted that data on the incidence and frequency of shark bites
'may not have a direct relationship to local shark abundance and cannot be used
as a proxy for shark population trend'.
Furthermore, CSIRO added that although the data it is collecting to estimate
the white shark population will be 'a highly statistically robust estimate', the
data will be an estimate of abundance, not the trend in population.
Finally, in an answer to a question taken on notice, CSIRO identified
the need for additional research to enhance understanding of the current state
of shark populations. CSIRO suggested that a focus of this research could be
the 'ongoing data collection and monitoring to support the determination of
population trends', with this data collection effort to include sampling of
white sharks in state government tagging programs as well as white sharks
caught in shark control programs and as commercial fisheries bycatch. CSIRO
Current research will provide a more precise estimate of when
the assessment should be updated and further tested for population trend, but
practical reasons would suggest reassessment once about 100 new samples have
been collected or after 1–2 years. The majority of tissue samples are being
taken as part of the State run tagging programs; these programs are critical
for obtaining the necessary data to estimate population size and trend, and
will ensure the required number of samples to estimate these parameters are
obtained in the shortest possible time.
Behaviour and habitat
CSIRO explained that bull, tiger and white sharks have similar movement
patterns in that they 'roam over considerable distances (1000s of km)...and
utilise both nearshore and offshore waters as part of their normal habitat'.
Regarding white sharks, CSIRO noted that they 'are not permanent residents at
any one site' with movements that 'indicate temporary residency at various
sites, mixed with periods of long-distance travel that may include common
Research indicates broad-scale movements of white sharks in
eastern Australia between Tasmania and central Queensland and between eastern
Australia and New Zealand. Movements include multi-year return and occupancy of
two known east coast nursery areas (Port Stephens, New South Wales and 90
Mile Beach-Corner Inlet area, Victoria).
Nearshore areas, including surf zones and some estuaries, are
common habitat for juvenile white sharks with sporadic areas of temporary
residency along the coast likely in response to the distribution of prey.
CSIRO added that, although Bass Strait is not a barrier to movement,
'the general pattern is for sharks to remain either east or west of Bass
In their joint submission, Dr Daniel Bucher and Professor Peter Harrison
provided the following insights into shark behaviour:
While there is a lack of data
on shark behaviour, 'normal' behaviour for sharks is generally considered to be
following and hunting prey. These prey are primarily fish, however, depending
on the species, sharks also eat a variety of other marine animals (marine
mammals, other sharks, sea turtles, squid, crustaceans and seabirds). Food
availability is generally driven by seasonal changes in weather patterns, ocean
currents and water temperatures. Furthermore, sharks are inquisitive (and
opportunistic) animals, and will investigate almost anything in the water
column or on the surface...
The submission continued with observations about the movement patterns
of white, tiger and bull sharks:
Both juvenile white sharks and tiger sharks show a
'hot-spot-highway' style of movement with regular visits to 'preferred' or
'residency' locations as well as wide-ranging patterns of movement...Juvenile
white sharks are known to be more common in northern NSW waters in winter when
sea surface temperatures are cooler...following schools of large snapper and
Australian salmon (and possibly the humpback whale migration), and stopping
wherever food is prevalent...Tiger sharks tend to follow seasonal changes in
water temperatures, generally moving further into NSW waters during warmer
months when sea surface temperatures are higher...
Bull sharks occur year-round in NSW waters north of Sydney...Immature animals use
rivers and estuaries and mature animals use inshore marine areas, entering
estuaries in summer to breed. Broad-scale movements between coastal populations
have also been recorded in mature animals...
Professor Bucher noted that sharks 'will go wherever there is food'.
He explained that sharks travel to places:
...where there is a lot of food and where the ocean temperature
and currents, and so on, are just right—it might be a permanent spot; it might
be something that comes and goes with the seasons or from year to year...The individuals
are constantly moving around, and what we are getting are these little aggregations
in different spots at different times.
Evidence received by the committee also commented on the influence of
sharks on the structure of marine ecosystems. Dr Bucher and Professor Harrison
submitted that sharks 'are believed to play a key role in the structure and
functioning of marine communities, and are a vital component to coastal
ecosystem health'. They explained:
By selectively removing weakened animals from prey
populations and scavenging whale carcasses and flood debris, sharks can serve
to keep prey population healthy and vigorous. The further decline of shark
populations, combined with other anthropogenic pressures in coastal waters
(climate change, habitat loss and degradation, pollution), could have dire
consequences (economic and environmental) for these highly productive marine
On the role sharks play in shaping marine ecosystems, Professor Bax
I think there's a general acceptance in the biological
community that large apex predators, like white sharks, are important to the
way the ecosystem functions. While I believe it would be true...we don't have the
specific information which allows us to say, 'If white sharks were gone this
would happy to the ecosystem,' there have been instances, especially in
terrestrial areas, with the reintroduction of large predators like wolves in
Yellowstone, where their presence changed the behaviour of other animals and
changed the whole ecosystem. In Yellowstone national park, it's led to the
resurgence of a particular kind of tree and it's led to a change in the
landscape because of the presence of this apex predator. It's not just their
direct role in predation or feeding; it's how they change the behaviour of
other animals in the system.
When commenting on shark behaviour, some witnesses emphasised that,
of the small number of shark species that are considered to be dangerous
to humans, those sharks are not considered to preferentially hunt humans as
prey. For example, Mr Brendan Donohoe of the Surfrider Foundation Australia
commented that sharks 'are not after people'. Mr Donohoe stated:
...to the best of my knowledge there has never been a shark
caught post‑attack that has had in its intestines the evidence of
involvement in more than one incident. They are not the rogue lion, the rogue
this, the rogue that. Shark incidents happen. Sharks have been hunted, and
successfully hunted, and found. They have found bits of boards and things when
people have been taken, but they have never found bits of board from two
different attacks. They are not return hunters. These things are not after
people. They are not crocodiles. They do not lie in wait for us. They investigate.
From all reports, as sharks, particularly whites, hit maturity and become
bigger specimens, they start to change their feedstock from large fish to seals
and the like.
However, other individuals expressed frustration regarding what they
consider is a lack of authoritative information about perceived changes in
shark behaviour and spikes in regional human–shark encounters. Mr Heaton
The experts, for whatever reason, cannot give any sort of
reason as to why for a two-year period they came close to the shore and
encountered or attacked people—whatever terminology you want to use. Why did
they come in so close to shore and attack people? Surfers only go about
100 metres off the coastline. Why did the sharks come within 100 metres
over that two-year period?
Generally, it was accepted that further research is necessary to gain a
better understanding about sharks, particularly regarding their behaviour,
movement and breeding patterns.
In particular, CSIRO identified that it might 'be possible to build a
predictive model' to better understand shark abundance and location. CSIRO
provided the following explanation of how a predictive model could be developed
and the benefits that such a model could provide:
The NSW DPI, through their tagging program, are amassing a
significantly larger data holding on the distribution and movements of white
sharks (and other species) than previously available. If the data and modelling
can identify a suitable suite of environmental predictors it could be very
useful in reducing shark-human interactions. Understanding shark movements to
identify behavioural patterns, habitat preferences, and fine-scale residence
behaviours of sharks, particularly into highly populated areas, and
understanding our ability to detect white shark presence, are key components to
understanding human-shark interactions supporting improved management policies
and mitigation responses. A continued collaboration with all the States would
ensure that collected data are analysed in a consistent way that will support
increased precision in estimates of population size, juvenile mortality and
trends in adult population size.
Finally, marine scientists noted that particular aspects of shark
behaviour have implications when considering shark deterrent and management
measures. Professor Shaun Collin noted that 'not all sharks are the same with
respect to how they react to environmental cues'. As a result, Professor Collin
commented that deterrent measures may need to be species specific to account
for differences between species, such as white sharks being visual specialists,
bull sharks relying on electro reception and tiger sharks basing 'most of their
behaviour on smell'.
Evidence received from interested observers of the marine environment provided
further insight into this. Mr Ian Wiese, who undertakes photography using an
unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) off the south west coast of Western Australia
explained that the bronze whaler sharks he has observed are 'extremely shy...as
soon as they became aware of something in the vicinity they would turn away'.
Mr Wiese remarked that this species is 'not as dangerous as many people
Professor Meeuwig added that the age of sharks is significant as
juvenile sharks are generally more aggressive.
Professor Meeuwig indicated that targeting the large, adult sharks has implications
for the overall population, as the adult sharks 'are the reproductive
engines of these populations'.
A small number of shark species are protected under Commonwealth
legislation due to concern about their declining populations. Australia has
also committed to international agreements intended to help conserve and manage
sharks to ensure their sustainable use.
The EPBC Act
The EPBC Act provides a framework for protecting matters of national
environmental significance. As noted above, nine species of sharks are
classified as 'threatened' under the EPBC Act and are therefore protected. The
EPBC Act also protects migratory species, Commonwealth marine areas and the
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The EPBC Act discussed further in Chapter 5.
Australia is a signatory to the Convention on the
Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention), which
provides a 'global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of
migratory animals and their habitats'.
Species listed under the Bonn Convention, such as the white shark, are
included in the EPBC Act's list of migratory species.
The EPBC Act includes offences that are designed to give effect to
Australia's obligations under the Convention and various provisions of the EPBC
Act stipulate that the minister must not act inconsistently with Australia's
obligations under the Bonn Convention.
of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks 2012
Australia is a signatory to the United Nations
International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA–Sharks), which is a 'voluntary international
instrument developed so that nations can take positive action to ensure the
conservation and management of sharks, and their long-term sustainable use'.
In response to the IPOA–Sharks, Australian governments have developed
national plans of action for the conservation and management of sharks. The
current plan was released in 2012 and is referred to as 'Shark-plan
Among other things, Shark-plan 2 identifies as an issue for shark
conservation and management the current 'understanding of the effects of shark
fishing, control programs for bather protection and management practices on
ecosystem structure and function'. Five actions are identified to improve
understanding, including 'periodic assessment of the ecological impacts of
shark control programs for bather protection'. The Plan classifies this issue
as a 'medium-low' priority.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page