Shark meshing fiasco
The long-awaited review of the NSW shark meshing program, released today, has once again confirmed the environmental destruction wrought by this out-dated and unnecessary political program. Though maintained under the pretence of protecting the swimming public, the truth of the real death toll to threatened and innocent species has finally been revealed.
“Nearly 5000 hammerheads have been captured in this program since 1950, and these are species whose global decline has been so severe as to warrant uplisting by the World Conservation Union to the ‘endangered’ threat category,” said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director. “Add to this the almost 3000 whaler sharks that have been caught in the same period of time, many species of which have also recently been upgraded to ‘vulnerable’ by the World Conservation Union,and it is clear these nets are perpetuating the ongoing catastrophic decline of shark populations.”
“The review itself concedes what the scientific community has been telling us all along – that shark numbers have dropped dramatically,” said Mr Kennedy. “For that reason, HSI yesterday submitted nominations to the Federal Government to have dusky sharks, greater hammerheads, and long- and shortfin mako sharks protected as threatened species. Even so, it is going to be an uphill battle to recover populations of shark species if the NSW Government insists on continuing to fund and maintain culling programs. HSI will also propose the bull and tiger sharks for national protection in the coming year.”
Nationally-listed threatened shark species have also been devastated in their hundreds, with nearly 600 great white sharks and almost 400 grey nurse sharks being caught. The review admits that both of these species have been significantly affected by the program.
Sharks aren’t the only victims. Numerous dolphins, turtles, whales, seals and penguins have also been captured in the nets. Yet despite being listed under NSW law as a Key Threatening Process because of their devastating impact on threatened and non-target species, the review states that the risk of meshing on these species is low. This Key Threatening Process listing recognises the threats to the survival of marine species, and provides an obligation upon the State Government to ensure that these threats are mitigated.
“For the NSW Government to continue to defend and maintain a program that actively kills threatened species is unconscionable,” said Mr Kennedy. “It is perplexing how they can contradict their own Key Threatening Process listing by brazenly suggesting that the risk posed to mammals, reptiles and birds is low. Any impacts on these species as a result of the meshing program are just simply unacceptable. The only way to abate the threats of the nets on innocent marine species is to remove the nets once and for all, and the NSW Government should do so immediately.”
HSI has long and successfully campaigned for state, national and international protection of shark species, and has been a key player in ensuring the protection of great white and grey nurse sharks nationally and internationally. HSI was also responsible for the listing of ‘Death or injury to marine species following capture in shark control programs on ocean beaches’ as a Key Threatening Process under NSW legislation.