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MEDIA RELEASE: Protection removed for endangered hammerhead sharks in Great Barrier Reef

Wed 12 September 2018

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI) today expressed disappointment at the Senate’s failure to block a move by former Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to deny protection to an endangered species in the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

Scalloped hammerhead sharks are endangered and were listed as ‘Conservation Dependant’ under Australian law earlier this year. The Conservation Dependent listing meant they could no longer be commercially targeted inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Minister Frydenberg amended Great Barrier Reef rules to strip away that protection. As a result, this species can continue to be fished even though it is more at risk of extinction than giant pandas, lions and polar bears.

Today the Senate voted on a motion from Greens Senator, Peter Whish-Wilson, to disallow the amendment and regrettably voted it down.

Scalloped hammerhead sharks are internationally recognised as an endangered species by the IUCN, but are targeted and caught in commercial fishing operations around the Australia. The largest fishery operates in the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

“We are deeply disappointed the Australian Government has removed protection for scalloped hammerhead sharks in the Reef, the one place in Australia where endangered marine wildlife should be protected at all costs,” said Tooni Mahto, Campaigns Manager at AMCS. “Today was an opportunity to protect a species that has declined by up to 80% from original numbers in the Reef, but instead the Australian Government has opted to support continuation of fishing for these sharks.”

“The Minister’s decision to remove the additional protection the Great Barrier Reef laws gave to a threatened species is deeply concerning for protection of marine wildlife in the Reef,” said Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at HSI. “Healthy populations of sharks are essential to supporting the resilience and health of our Great Barrier Reef.”

“While it was made clear today that the Coalition Government are unwilling to find solutions to securing a better future for scalloped hammerhead sharks in the Reef, we welcome the support of the disallowance motion by the Opposition,” said Miss Mahto. “Strong environmental standards are urgently needed to protect the Reef and the wildlife that inhabits it, and the Oppositions commitment to working with the fishing industry in future to resolve this issue gives some hope for the future protection of this species.”

AMCS and HSI are calling on the Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price to commit funding to the targeted removal of fishing activity that is catching sharks in the Reef, as well as ensuring the fishery in which they are caught undergoes urgently needed reforms.

CONTACT:

For comment or interviews with Tooni Mahto, contact:
Shane Cucow, AMCS Senior Communications Officer
0423 544 979 / shanecucow@amcs.org.au

For comment or interviews with Lawrence Chlebeck, contact:
Ben Vozzo, HSI Communications Coordinator
0450 258 057 / ben@hsi.org.au
 

Background notes:

  1. Humane Society International nominated the scalloped hammerhead for protection as an endangered species under Australia’s national environment law. This nomination led to the Conservation Dependent listing.
     

  2. Scalloped hammerhead sharks were listed as a ‘Conservation Dependent’ species on the EPBC List of Threatened Fauna in April 2018 by then Minister for the Environment Josh Frydenberg. The listing category allows continued fishing for species that would normally qualify for stricter protection, but requires a management plan to be in place.
     

  3. Under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (GBRMPA), no targeted fishing for any species listed under any category, including Conservation Dependent, in the EPBC Act list of threatened fauna is allowed. Minister Frydenberg has tabled amendments to the GBRMPA regulations that would allow for the continued fishing of the scalloped hammerhead species within the Marine Park despite the Conservation Dependent listing.
     

  4. Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson tabled a disallowance motion in the Senate against the proposed amendments to change the GBRMPA regulations to allow continued fishing for the scalloped hammerhead.
     

  5. Scalloped hammerhead sharks are listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List

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