Around the world, at least 63 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries. Shark culling occurs in both Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) via shark nets and drumlines (baited hooks).
Hundreds of targeted sharks, many of them threatened species, are caught each year in each state. For over 80 years the shark nets and drumlines also caught and killed at least 15,135 other marine animals in NSW alone, including turtles, whales, dolphins, rays, and dugongs. Since 2001, Queensland's shark nets and drumlines have caught 413 whales and dolphins, 907 turtles, 1766 rays and culled 13,167 sharks.
Shark netting and baited drum lines are beach safety standards that are over 60 years old. We need to modernise beach safety and better public education to make our beaches safer for humans and wildlife alike.
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 AMCS campaigning with ocean lovers around the country.
Although live shark finning is illegal, Australia legally participates in the shark fin trade. As long as this continues, we need strong regulations to ensure that illegal live shark finning is not occurring as a result of this trade.
A ‘fins on’ rule, (technically known as ‘fins naturally attached’; FNA) is globally recognised as the most effective way to reduce illegal shark finning and prevent endangered sharks being traded. FNA means that sharks are brought back to land ‘whole’ before their fins are harvested. When enforced and regulated, the FNA rule ensures that no sharks are subjected to cruel live finning. Sharks are very difficult to identify from just their separated fins, so the FNA rule also means better data is collected about the type of sharks harvested and improves the sustainability of a fishery.
Despite global recognition and success, not all states in Australia have adopted this FNA. In some parts of the Northern Territory and in Western Australia, there is no FNA rule meaning that illegal live finning could still be occurring.
Our ultimate goal is for Australia to exit the fin trade, but first we need FNA in all Australian waters to ensure that we can collect quality data to support this goal.
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. Research has shown that healthy shark populations are crucial to the health of coral reefs,. Further research also shows that sharks may even help us combat climate change by preventing seagrasses, an important carbon store, from being overgrazed by animals like dugongs.
Australia is a shark and ray hotspot, home to one quarter of the world’s known species. Of the 328 species that cruise our waters, almost half (41%) of them are unique to our waters. Sharks and rays are particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure because, like us humans, they mature slowly, give birth to few young and are long-lived. On average, they mature at 10 years old, have reproductive cycles of 1-2 years and produce 4-6 pups at a time. In short, their populations take a long time to recover from over-exploitation.
With your support, we have helped save sharks by banning live shark finning. We protected 17,500km2 of WA coastline from commercial shark fishing around sea lion colonies and stopped the WA shark cull. In 2021, we saved an estimated 20,000 sharks from being killed each year in Queensland (including within the Great Barrier Reef).
But we still have a long way to go. We are currently focusing on:
Alternatives to Shark Culling
Non-lethal alternatives to shark culling already exist and are in use around Australia. Innovative approaches include the use of drones, and shark tagging and monitoring, where tagged sharks send their location in real-time via satellite and as they swim past underwater detectors.
Combined with improved community education, we can use non lethal methods like these to help us avoid unnecessary encounters with sharks. These methods of shark control will also improve our knowledge of shark behaviour. With so many of our magnificent, graceful shark species under threat, this conservation data is critical.
Labelling of Shark Products
There is no legal requirement to accurately label shark flesh by species. The flesh, or ‘flake’ as it’s commonly known, could be any shark or ray, including endangered species like the scalloped and great hammerhead. We also import shark meat and fins from South Africa and south-east Asia, regions with poorer fishing regulations than Australia. Customers and in some cases, retailers, currently have very little idea what species of shark they’re buying or selling at the fish and chip shop.
Due to the risk to endangered species, and the inability to trace the product to a sustainable fishery, AMCS does not currently support any targeted shark fishing in Australia, and recommends that the public avoid and ‘give flake a break’ when eating seafood.
Almost half of Australia’s 328 sharks and rays are found nowhere else in the world so it’s entirely up to us to save them. Help Australia return as the world leader in shark conservation.
Shark Champions is AMCS’ first dedicated, multi-year shark campaign in partnership with Humane Society International. We’ve worked for decades to champion the plight of these diverse and wonderful sea creatures. Together with you, we secured a national ban on live-shark finning, reduced the shark catch in our precious Great Barrier Reef, and stopped the shark cull in Western Australia.
Now more than ever, we need your strength and passion so that we can really make a positive difference for our magnificent sharks and rays.
Become a mighty Shark Champion today and speak up for those who can't.Join the Shark Champions Campaign