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5 March 2007 - Too many fishers not enough sharks      

Too many fishers – not enough sharks

Sydney, 5th March 2007                      
                                                                                                                                                

Humane Society International (HSI) is outraged at news this morning that an unnamed ‘inside source’ from NSW Fisheries is contradicting their own research, and claiming that a Government cover-up is fudging the figures on grey nurse shark population numbers to validate the shutting down of recreational fishing areas.

“The NSW Government has known of the continuing decline of this species for years and yet they have displayed complete inertia in taking decisive action to protect it,” said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director. “Within NSW waters, 16 sites are recognised as aggregation sites for grey nurse sharks. Protection of sharks within these habitats only requires that a radius of 1500m around each of these sites be established as no-take sanctuary zones. This is only a very small amount of potential fishing habitat in NSW, and yet the majority of these sites are afforded very little or no protection.”

“Far from closing down fishing spots to protect grey nurse sharks, the NSW Government has repeatedly bowed to pressure from the fishing lobby and done the least amount possible to protect these habitats,” said Mr Kennedy. “To suggest that the NSW Government has been fudging the numbers and ignoring the results of population surveys in a bid to shut down fishing spots is just ridiculous.

With less than 500 individuals on the east coast of Australia, the grey nurse shark may actually be one of Australia’s most threatened marine species. Their inability to recover from the mass decline in numbers since the 1960s at the hands of spearfishers, recreational and commercial fishers, last year prompted the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee to propose the uplisting of this species to Critically Endangered under the Fisheries Management Act 1994. Grey nurse sharks are also 1 of only 3 fish species listed as Critically Endangered under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) 1999. Both of these listings were the result of HSI nominations.

“This is a species that is in a state of perpetual decline, and it is reasonable to assume that this will continue to be the trend if clear and decisive action is not taken immediately,” said Mr Kennedy. ”With 90% of all grey nurse observed along the NSW coast found at aggregation sites, it makes sense to close these areas to fishing in an effort to protect this species from almost-certain extinction.”

Frustrated with continual inaction by the NSW Government to adequately protect grey nurse sharks, HSI is currently investigating legal options to force the government to take action and put an end to all human-induced mortality of this critically endangered species.

HSI urges the NSW Environment Minister, Bob Debus, and Malcolm Turnbull, the federal Minister for Environment and Water Resources, to protect all grey nurse shark critical habitat sites as a matter of urgency, by gazetting these sites as no-take marine reserves and listing them on the federal Register of Critical Habitat under the EPBC Act.





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