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Turnbull Government weasels out of global agreement to protect threatened sharks

Tue 23 January 2018

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) today criticised the Turnbull Government for its continued undermining of international efforts to protect threatened shark species.

In October 2017 a consensus international agreement added blue sharks, dusky whalers and white spotted wedgefish to a list of sharks that would benefit from additional support due to their threatened population status. 

All three species are either targeted in commercial fisheries around Australia or caught incidentally. They are all caught for their fins and flesh, which either enter Australia's domestic seafood market or are exported overseas. 

Tooni Mahto, Senior Marine Campaigner said:
“We have just learned the Australian Government has yet again reneged on an international agreement to protect our threatened sharks. This follows an ignoble history of weasling out of shark protection when it involves Australian fisheries. 

“This feels like history repeating; the Australian Government previously stepped out of its commitments to protect threatened hammerhead and thresher sharks in 2014. It’s unacceptable that nothing has changed in the past four years, and we are reminded yet again of the value this government puts on Australia's endangered sharks".

AMCS understands that the Australian Government attended the international meeting at which this decision was agreed, and did not object to the listing of these species at the time. We have today learnt that the Government lodged a reservation to the agreement.

“Australia used to be an international leader in shark conservation. That crown has well and truly slipped and hit the ground. Instead of leading the way, we’re looking for back routes to wriggle out of our international obligation to conserve sharks," Mahto said.

“By not giving these species the protection they need, our Government is yet again prioritising commercial fishing interests over Australia’s oceans. Healthy oceans need sharks. It’s as simple as that. 

“We are deeply disappointed that the Government has failed to consult with all stakeholders before taking this decision. We call on the Turnbull Government to withdraw the reservation and ensure that our sharks are adequately protected in Australian waters.”

Background
In October 2017 a consensus agreement of nearly 48 signatories, including the European Union, moved to protect shark species that would benefit from additional conservation measures. It was agreed that blue sharks, dusky whalers and white spotted wedgefish should be added to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (known as CMS or the Convention) which requires additional protections for those species.

In 2014, three species of thresher shark and two species of hammerhead shark were added to the MOU. The Australian Government filed a reservation which means these species are still commercially caught around the country.

Blue sharks are considered globally ‘near threatened’ on the IUCN Red list of Threatened Species. Dusky whalers (or dusky sharks) and white spotted wedgefish (or whitespotted guitarfish) are both ranked as ‘Vulnerable’.

Available for media comment: Tooni Mahto, Senior Marine Campaigner, 0467 081 258

To arrange interviews: Ingrid Neilson, AMCS Communications Manager, 0421 972 731

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