Stop the Proposal of Shark Fin Fishery on The Great Barrier Reef

  • by: Lindsay Rudd
  • recipient: Tim Mulherin MP, Petter Garrett MP

An alarming new proposal by the Queensland Government will establish a dedicated shark fin fishery in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and other marine parks in Queensland.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society (and anyone who cares for our oceans) is astonished by this proposal, in which Queensland's fisheries department (DPI&F) plans to legitimise one of the most unsustainable forms of fishing on the planet - shark fin fishing. With over 90% of the world's sharks and other big fish gone from our oceans, this project is unsustainable, unethical and will be flatly rejected by the Australian public. 
 Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
Not only is the Queensland Government proposing to hand out specific fishing licenses for shark fin fishing, which will entrench the practice for years, they are planning to legitimise shark finning in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and in the Marine Parks of Moreton Bay and the Great Sandy Straits with this new license proposal. 

The proposal will create new licenses to fishers to catch unlimited sharks and also to catch sharks with nets over a kilometre long in our off-shore waters.

Shark finning at sea, where the fins are cut of the shark and the carcass is thrown overboard, is banned in Australia (thanks to our efforts). However, shark fin fishing continues - sharks are still being targeted for their high value fins although their carcasses are now kept and sold as low value waste products.

AMCS has pressed DPI&F to phase out shark fishing and they have failed to do so. What does it say for the sustainability agenda of this agency when it fails not only to protect one of the state's most vulnerable group of species, but promotes their exploitation?
During 2000-2004 shark fishing in Queensland increased four-fold with a massive 1240 tonnes of shark being landed in 2004*. The main pressure on sharks in the Great Barrier Reef is fishing, and this pressure is increasing. More than 90% of the Great Barrier Reef commercial shark harvest is taken by the gillnet fishery with the remainder taken by the line and trawl fisheries. However recreational fishers catch and retain a significant number of sharks.
Sharks are extremely vulnerable to fishing impacts. This is because their biology is more like whales and dolphins than other fish. Sharks are slow growing, have extremely low reproductive rates (producing very few young) and are mostly long lived. This means that they are very slow to recover from impacts on their populations. Many shark fisheries around the world have collapsed.
Sharks are apex predators, helping to control populations of prey species. Consequently, reducing the number of sharks may have significant and unpredictable impacts on other parts of the ecosystem. The Queensland Government must revoke this proposal and commit to a program with fishers to save sharks, not hunt them. We urge anyone who treasures Queensland's sharks to have their say on this matter.

All information provided by the Australian Marine Conservation Society. Tim Mulherin, MP
Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries

GPO Box 46

Hon Peter Garrett, MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts
Parliament House

Dear Minister

Re: Stop shark fishing on the Great Barrier Reef

We the undersigned are alarmed to hear that your department is about to entrench one of the most unsustainable forms of fishing on the planet - shark fishing. We understand that you are planning to license and legitimise shark fishing on the Great Barrier Reef (and across Queensland) and we strongly oppose this proposal.

With over 90% of the world%u2019s sharks and other big fish gone from our oceans, we cannot afford to lose our precious sharks due to unsustainable and unethical fishing practices.

We understand that sharks are increasingly targeted because of the value of their fins to export markets and that this practice has grown more than four-fold in recent years. We also understand that the Great Barrier Reef may have already lost as much as 90% of its white-tipped and grey reef sharks. Minister, We are very concerned about the health of the Great Barrier Reef with the loss of these critically important species. 
We have also been informed that a quarter of the shark catch in Queensland is taken by recreational fishers. This is surprising and deeply concerning. In our view, recreational fishing can be enjoyed without sharks being taken.

In essence, Minister, We urge you to work with fishers to save sharks, not hunt them. Please revoke the proposed shark fishery licence symbol you are considering. In our view this licence would legitimise and entrench shark fishing (and finning) on the Great Barrier Reef. Please also set a zero bag limit for sharks for both the commercial and recreational fishing sectors in Queensland.

We hope you shareour concerns and take action now on this matter. We look forward to your earliest response.

Yours Sincerely
The Undersigned.
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