Our diminishing sharks and rays

Marine Conservation agencies are becoming increasingly alarmed about a serious decline in the numbers of sharks and rays in Australian waters. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the 300 odd species of sharks and rays found in Australian waters are completely harmless, they’re plagued by bad press due to rare attacks by species like the Great White shark.

It’s safe to suspect that Hollywood also plays a part in creating a “fear and loathing” response to sharks in particular, thanks to films like “Jaws”, “Deep Blue” or any number of movies featuring the circling fins of sharks as predators.

According to Australian Marine Conservation Society Northern Marine campaigner Adele Pedder, Australians indescriminately kill millions of sharks and rays, (Elasmobranchs), every year.

They’re a common bycatch in commerical nets, while many recreational anglers catch juvenile sharks and simply kill them, rather than return them to the water.

Ms Pedder says Elasmobranchs are now in serious decline around the world. Already, several Australian species are listed as threatened and many others are of conservation concern.

According to Ms Pedder, the biggest danger to the survival of sharks and rays is unscrupulous commercial fishing – particularly the cruel “shark finning” practises of some international fishing operators. There is no shark fin fishery in Australian waters.

Australia is signatory to the United Nations International Plan of Action for the protection of sharks (and rays). We have a National Shark Plan, which should outline how we will protect our Australian species but there are many impediments to progress.

In an effort to educate Australians about the impacts of fishing practises on shark and ray numbers, The Australian Marine Conservation Society has produced the Sustainable Seafood Guide, offering seafood lovers a better understanding of our seafood and the impacts of the fisheries that supply them.

Source: ABC North Queensland