Here’s a good example of a ‘tough one’ when it comes to taking the best approach to conservation. At first glance, it seems that the Australian government is backing out of an obligation, but looking a bit further is that the case?
It appears that this isn’t the first time that difficulties like this have popped up, as can be seen by the 2010 amendment made to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in order to account for recreational and commercial fisheries and occasional catches of sharks.
Another quick look shows that, in NSW, recreational fishing regulations already aim at protecting several of these shark species; limiting bag limits to a single shark of any combination of the species in question while also stating that only one of the three hammerhead species (the smooth hammerhead) can be legally retained. Queensland regulations state that one shark of any species (excluding white sharks, grey nurse sharks, sawfish and speartooth sharks which are no take) can be retained as a bag limit. Other states and territories have similar restrictions to recreational fishing of sharks.
While I haven’t looked into commercial fishing regulations, the few things I did see suggest that there is allowance for inevitable bycatch of sharks while fishing for other species, and requirements to immediately release living sharks that are accidentally caught.
So would making it illegal for recreational and commercial fishers to capture these species in Australian waters adequately address the threats posed to these species? Or would further changes to existing state fishing regulations achieve the same outcome without unduly persecuting those that are trying to do the right thing?
I’m not taking a side on this one until I get a better idea of the whole story. Feel free to have your say!