Tiger sharks should be listed as endangered in Australian waters, says the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) and Humane Society International (HSI), after a study reported a shocking 71 per cent decline in only three decades.
The authors of the study, in the journal Biological Conservation, commented that commercial fishing was likely a major cause of the plummeting numbers over the last 33 years. Queensland’s lethal Shark Control Program (SCP) was another significant cause of the crash in numbers. This decline would qualify tiger sharks on the east coast of Australia for an endangered listing, they said.
Dr Leonardo Guida, shark scientist at AMCS said: “This research is yet another sign that Australia isn’t doing enough to protect the tiger shark from heading to extinction. It was only a few months ago a major study revealed that the east coast of Australia was one of the few places in the world where tiger sharks experienced the greatest threat from commercial fishing.”
The Queensland Shark Control Program (SCP) catches and kills marine wildlife throughout the state, including within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Tiger sharks are one of 19 target shark species in the SCP and are shot dead if caught alive. Since 2001, the SCP has killed over 10,000 animals, including more than 2,500 tiger sharks1.
Lawrence Chlebeck, Marine Campaigner at HSI said: “Tiger sharks are crucial to the health of the Great Barrier Reef because they keep food webs in check. The science tells us that killing sharks does not improve beach safety. To protect the Reef the Queensland Government needs to protect sharks and implement more modern and effective strategies to protect swimmers.”
HSI has challenged the impact of the SCP on the reef ecosystem, and its inability to protect ocean users. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Brisbane ruled in favour of HSI and ordered an end to the shooting of tiger sharks, but the Queensland Government has sought to overturn the decision in the Federal Court.
In response to HSI’s initial challenge of the SCP earlier this year, the Queensland Administrative Appeals Tribunal stated, “…there is a significant decline in tiger shark population and that the SCP makes a significant contribution to that decline.” The Tribunal concluded that the lethal component of the SCP “…does not reduce the risk of unprovoked shark attacks… the scientific evidence before us is overwhelming in this regard.”
HSI and AMCS are actively investigating possibilities for a tiger shark nomination as an endangered species to improve its protection as part of their national “Shark Champions” campaign
1. Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Shark Control Program catch data.