Australia accused of back-tracking on shark protection

archive – Diving NewsAustralia accused of back-tracking on shark protection

Australia's government has been criticised for opting out of a recent international pact to protect three species of threatened sharks and rays.

Blue sharks, dusky whalers and white-spotted wedgefish (guitarfish) were included in a list of 34 endangered animals voted to receive additional protection at the UN-backed Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) conference in Manila last October, as reported on Divernet.

The conference involved more than 1000 delegates from 129 countries, and nearly 48 signatories, including the EU, moved to protect shark species that would benefit from additional conservation measures.

Blue sharks are considered globally “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, while both dusky whalers and white-spotted wedgefish are ranked “Vulnerable”.

Following the convention, at which Australia had lodged no objection, its government submitted reservations to the listing of the three species to avoid controls applying in Australian waters, according to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

The sharks are currently targeted by commercial fisheries or caught incidentally in Australia, and their fins or flesh are both consumed domestically and exported.

“This feels like history repeating,” commented AMCS Senior Marine Campaigner Tooni Mahto. “The Australian government previously stepped out of its commitments to protect threatened hammerhead and thresher sharks in 2014.

“Australia used to be an international leader in shark conservation. That crown has well and truly slipped and hit the ground. Instead of leading the way, we’re looking for back-routes to wriggle out of our international obligation to conserve sharks.

“Healthy oceans need sharks – it’s as simple as that.”

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