In Australia, sharks are taken by commercial, Indigenous, recreational and game fishers. Sharks are caught as both target species and incidental catch retained or discarded. Sharks generally have a low reproduction rate, mature late and have small populations. Sharks may be susceptible to overfishing and can be slow to recover if overfished. Several shark species are protected in Australia under the
Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and cannot be harvested by fishers. The department works with the Department of the Environment and Energy and the
Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to minimise the interaction of fishing activity with protected shark species in Commonwealth waters.
Commonwealth managed fisheries are subject to management arrangements that put measures in place to reduce interactions with sharks. In instances where shark species can be commercially caught, catch limits are set to ensure populations are maintained at sustainable levels. Australia continues to review its management arrangements to ensure sharks are managed using the latest scientific and biological information.
A 2014 assessment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature on the world's sharks and rays determined that Australia was a leader in the management and conservation of sharks and rays. The assessment noted that Australia has put in place science-based management recovery plans for threatened species (white shark, grey nurse shark, whale shark, gulper sharks, school shark, sawfish and river sharks).
Australia developed its first National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (Shark-plan 1) in 2004. Shark-plan 1 detailed actions to encourage the effective and sustainable management of Australia’s shark populations. It provided guidance to fisheries and conservation managers and the public to improve conservation and management of sharks. The plan met Australia’s commitment as a member of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, to the
International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA-Sharks). The IPOA-Sharks is a voluntary international instrument that guides nations in taking positive action on the conservation and management of sharks and their long-term sustainable use. For more information about the IPOA Sharks visit the
Australia's second National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks 2012 (Shark-plan 2)
In July 2012, following a review of Shark-plan 1, Australia’s second National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks 2012 (Shark-plan 2) was released.
Shark-plan 2 articulates how Australia manages sharks and ensures that Australia meets international conservation and management obligations. The plan identifies research and management actions across Australia for the long-term sustainability of sharks, including actions to help minimise the impacts of fishing on sharks.
Shark-plan 2 provides a framework for the conservation of Australia’s shark populations and for guiding the industries and communities that impact upon them.
Shark-plan 2 was developed with state, Northern Territory and Australian Government agencies, and has been endorsed by the Shark-plan Representative Group (SRG) (refer below) and the Australian Fisheries Management Forum.
operational strategy for Shark-plan 2 was also developed with government stakeholders. It identifies actions Commonwealth, state and Northern Territory jurisdictions to pursue in advancing the Plan’s objectives.
The department is currently finalising a review of Shark-plan 2 and its Operational Strategy to assess performance and inform future directions.
For further information on Shark-plan, please refer to the Shark-plan frequently asked questions (FAQ) below.
Shark-plan Representative Group
In 2013, the SRG was established to oversee and report on the implementation of the operational strategy for Shark-plan 2. The SRG meets annually and includes representatives from the Northern Territory and state fisheries agencies, AFMA, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Department of the Environment and Energy, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Fisheries Research Development Corporation, commercial and recreational fishing sectors and environmental non-government organisations. The SRG replaced the Shark Implementation and Review Committee previously established under
. Relevant documents from the SRG meetings are available below.
2009 Shark Assessment Report for the Australian National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks
In March 2010, the then Bureau of Rural Sciences [now Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)] prepared the
2009 Shark Assessment Report . The report identified significant changes that have occurred in fisheries since the release of the '2001 Shark Assessment Report' and new and ongoing issues that were considered in the review of Shark-plan 1. The information presented in the report is based on a compilation of reports provided by Commonwealth, state and territory fishery management agencies, research reports and expert opinion. ABARES is currently finalising an updated Shark Assessment Report.
Shark-plan frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What are the achievements of Shark-plan since its implementation in 2012?
The reviews of Shark-plan 1 (2010) and Shark-plan 2 (2018-Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in press) found that the plan has contributed to improved conservation and management outcomes for shark species occurring in Australian waters. This has seen Australia’s shark catch decline over the last decade. Since the implementation of Shark-plan in 2012, a number of shark management and conservation improvements have been undertaken as reported in the Shark Assessment Reports (SAR) 2009 and 2018 (ABARES in press):
- Australia has introduced a broad spectrum of legislative and regulatory protections for shark stocks.
- Status of Australian Fish Stocks Reports are prepared annually and contain information on sharks.
- There has been improved identification of species caught (including the development of identification guides for fishers).
- Catch and effort data collection has been enhanced (including through improved logbooks and observer programs).
- All Australian jurisdictions now use consultative forums in the development of fisheries management advice.
The reviews noted that the existing Australian Government legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and Government policies such as the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy Policy and the Commonwealth’s Policy on Fisheries Bycatch; Australian obligations to international conventions and state and the Northern Territory fisheries legislation were found to be the primary drivers of shark management initiatives. Shark-plan, its associated reporting and the undertaking of a regular Shark Assessment Report remain important elements for centralised monitoring of shark conservation and management in Australia.
What are the key benefits of Shark-plan’s jurisdiction reports to the management and conservation of sharks in Australia?
A finding of the Shark-plan 2 review was that, the consolidation of information from across jurisdictions on shark conservation measures allows managers to examine holistic approaches to shark management, rather than simply considering those within the context of a particular fishery or issue.
The plan also provides a vehicle for communication among the Australian Government, states and the Northern Territory, industry, scientists, science managers and environmental non-government organisations on shark conservation and management.
What are the areas for improvements identified in SAR 2018 and Shark-plan Review 2018 for Shark-plan 2?
For the future direction of Shark-plan, the Shark Assessment Report 2018 (ABARES in press) recommends that Shark-plan focus efforts on aspects of shark management that are not being progressed through other means or measures, such as monitoring and data collection; research prioritisation; the undertaking of mutually beneficial research; and better coordination of the management of shared stocks.
What are the key highlights of the 2017 Shark-plan 2 jurisdiction reports?
Key highlights reported by jurisdictions in 2017 were:
- The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is currently revising the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy and Bycatch Policies, and finalising a Departmental review of Shark-plan 2 and the 2018 Shark Assessment Report.
- The Department of the Environment and Energy has conducted a number of research projects under the National Environmental Science Program flagship to: support the conservation and recovery of Australia’s threatened and migratory marine species including some sharks; develop recovery plans for euryhaline and white sharks; determine research priorities for shark conservation; and assess the management of human-shark interactions.
- Australian Fisheries Management Authority adopted an ecological risk management guide which was released in June 2017.
- Victoria implemented new recreational fishing rules, particularly for skates and rays in response to community concern about cruel treatment by a small proportion of fishers.
- New South Wales launched its $16 million Shark Management Strategy in 2015 with a key objective of increasing protection for swimmers and surfers from shark interaction while minimising harm to sharks and other marine mammals.
- Northern Territory has set a framework for its shark fisheries so industry and government can work towards developing harvest strategies to apply catch limits and Individual Transferrable Quotas within its fisheries.
- Queensland released a Sustainable Fishing Strategy Green Paper in 2017. The paper contains a substantial key management reform (including some linkages to sharks) for the next ten years.
- Tasmania has been conducting a state-wide recreational fishing survey (including for sharks) until the end of October 2018. The survey outcome will be published in 2019.
- Western Australia conducted stock assessments for its four key indicator species including dusky, sandbar, whiskery and gummy sharks. Species were rated as either “recovering” or “adequate”, indicating that they are on a healthy trajectory.
When is the next SRG meeting?
The next meeting of members will be held at the end of 2018.