Extinction with minimum chips - episode 3
Of all the living things on our planet, sharks occupy a unique role, embodying the darkness in our hearts, evoking everything that spooks us about the deep.
But the relationship is more complex than eating and being eaten. Sharks inspire all manner of ritual and symbolism, strains of belief and superstition that persist throughout human history. Their sleek lines are a metaphor for anything fast and predatory: moneylenders and lawyers especially. They are the men in grey suits. They are Jaws the hideous, and Bruce the loveable. We’ve professed to loath them, but we’re addicted to the idea of them. They are as much a part of our history as we are. And they’re disappearing.
Jock Serong explores the problems facing sharks, possible solutions, and why we should care…
Management of shark populations in Australian waters is the responsibility of Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Currently there are nine shark species that are protected in Australian waters, but beyond these, dozens of other species require fishery management and stock monitoring. Central to all this effort is the Sharkplan, which was introduced in 2000.
Sharkplan brings together government agencies, the commercial fishing industry, recreational fishing groups, indigenous groups, scientific agencies and conservation groups. But the assessment report that it's based on is already ten years old. School sharks are now managed under a School Shark Stock Rebuilding Strategy, which has reviewed catch limits, and imposed controls on the way school sharks are fished.
Not for profit organisations in Australia are mounting public campaigns to encourage a shift away from shark consumption – foremost among these are the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, and others.
Working together for protection
There is said to be a strong co-operation between researchers and lobbyists: the CSIRO's Russ Bradford believes "lots of people work on sharks, and from my point of view the majority of people talk to each other and collaborate where possible."
Regionally, examples abound of Asian nations showing leadership in the area of shark conservation, despite the criticism these same nations continue to cop over finning. In 1998, the Philippines banned all fishing, selling, importing and exporting of whale sharks for commercial purposes, followed by India in May 2001, and Taiwan in May 2007.
Perhaps strangest of all, a group of nine shark attack survivors are currently lobbying the UN to do more to protect sharks.
The group, including Navy diver Paul de Gelder, who lost his right hand and lower leg to a bull shark in Sydney harbour, are calling for an international scientific management plan for shark fishing, so that everyone's fishing to agreed standards. De Gelder himself is back in the water surfing to aid his recovery.
The writer would like to thank Ingrid Neilson at the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Kent "Black" Stannard at WhiteTag for their generous help in researching this article. You can check out their very informative websites at www.amcs.org.au and www.whitetag.com.au
On February 1st 2014 surfers, scientists and conservationists will once again join members of the general public in gathering to denounce the Western Australian Government’s new policy to catch and kill sharks.
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