Why are sharks important?
If too many sharks are removed from an ecosystem, it can upset the balance between predators and prey all the way through the food chain. Recent Australian research has shown that healthy shark populations are crucial to the health of coral reefs. There are more than 300 different species of sharks in Australian water, and biologically they have more in common with whales and dolphins than other fish. Sharks are long-lived, slow growing and late to reach maturity and reproductive age. This means they take a long time to recover from over-exploitation.
How can sharks be saved?
Live shark finning, the practice of cutting the fins from live sharks and dumping the body, is illegal in all jurisdictions in Australia, thanks largely to campaigning from the AMCS community. However there is a long way to go. We are currently focusing our work on:
- Protecting hammerheads and other threatened sharks from fisheries and shark control programs like culling, drum lines and shark nets.
- Banning Australia’s import and export of shark fins.
Alternatives to shark culling already exist. Surf lifeguards and lifesavers monitor our popular beaches around Australia’s coast. Innovative approaches have been developed, such as a ‘clever buoys’ and shark tagging and monitoring, where tagged sharks “tweet” their location as they swim past underwater detectors. We can use non lethal methods like these to help us avoid unnecessary shark attacks. Many of these methods improve our knowledge of shark behaviour. With so many of our magnificent, graceful shark species under threat, this conservation research is critical. AMCS does not currently support any targeted shark fishing in Australia, and recommends that the public avoids shark or ‘flake’ when eating seafood.