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) and will soon have plans in place for others (sawfish, 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 UN FAO .
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.
An operational strategy for Shark-plan 2 was also developed with government stakeholders. It identif ies actions Commonwealth, state and Northern Territory jurisdictions to pursue in advancing the Plan’s objectives.
The department is currently undertaking a review of Shark-plan 2 and its Operational Strategy to assess performance and inform future directions.
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 Shark-plan 1
. 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 preparing an updated Shark Assessment Report.