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Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6807

Senator Nettle asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, upon notice, on 15 October 2002:

With reference to the growing concern about the conservation status of the population of Dusky Whaler Sharks, Carcharhinus obscurus, off the Western Australian coast:

(1) How many Dusky Whaler Sharks are taken off the Western Australian coast by Commonwealth fisheries?

(2) Has this information been provided to the Western Australian Department of Fisheries; if not, why not?

(3) What steps is the Australian Fisheries Management Authority taking to manage the by-catch of Dusky Whaler Sharks in the Commonwealth fisheries operating off Western Australia, and in accordance with the National Plan of Action for Sharks?

Senator Ian Macdonald (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) advises that Southern and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery (SWTBF) logbooks record in 2001, 81 dusky whaler sharks being retained (approximately 1.2 tonne in total) and a further 398 individuals were released.

(2) No. I am advised that AFMA only received a request from the Western Australian Department of Fisheries (WA Fisheries) on 22 October 2002 at a meeting in Fremantle, regarding the development by AFMA of a formal plan of management for the SWTBF. A commitment was made to provide data at that meeting. Subsequently further details on the request have been sought from the WA Fisheries on the parameters, such as the boundaries, for the data request.

(3) AFMA informs me that it has taken steps to increase monitoring of the shark bycatch limit in response to a range of concerns about sharks, including shark finning. In addition, wire traces, commonly used in longline fisheries, were banned in the SWTBF in 2001 as a means of reducing shark catches.

AFMA, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and CSIRO have recently produced a field guide to sharks and rays to assist in the identification of shark species and improve the data on shark catches throughout all shark bycatch fisheries.

The WA Fisheries officers participate in the Southern and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Advisory Committee (MAC). A working group formed by this MAC (including WA Shark expert) is to consider the AFMA held data, including that for sharks, and possible spatial and temporal management measures.

While drafting of the National Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks developed under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation International Plan of Action has been completed, it is yet to be nationally endorsed.