Death or injury to marine species following capture in shark control programs on ocean beaches - factsheet

The NSW Scientific Committee, an independent body of scientists, has made a final determination to list the 'death or injury to marine species following capture in shark control programs on ocean beaches' as a key threatening process under the Threatened Species Conservation Act (TSC Act).

1. How does the final determination affect shark control programs?

This final determination does not alter current shark control programs in NSW. The current programs, which are managed by NSW Fisheries on behalf of the NSW Government, will continue to be employed.

Now that the NSW Scientific Committee has made a final determination to list this process, a plan will be prepared which will consider ways of reducing the impact of shark control programs on non-target marine species in NSW.

2. What marine species are affected?

The Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) is responsible for protecting some threatened marine animals under the TSC Act. The dugong is an endangered mammal in NSW. Dugongs in NSW are likely to be individuals from the Moreton Bay or Hervey Bay populations in Queensland. The recent declines in both of these populations places them at risk from any additional sources of mortality in NSW.

The eastern Australian population of the loggerhead turtle has declined over the last 20 years and the species is listed as endangered under the Commonwealth legislation as well as in NSW. Death of loggerhead turtles in NSW waters would add to the factors causing the decline of the species.

Four other species listed as vulnerable in NSW under the TSC Act are also captured in shark control programs on our ocean beaches. These are the leathery turtle, green turtle, humpback whale and Australian fur-seal.

3. What is a 'key threatening process'?

A key threatening process is a process which is listed under the TSC Act in recognition of the threat it poses to biodiversity, particularly threatened species. Key threatening processes adversely affect two or more threatened species, populations or ecological communities or cause those which are not yet threatened to become threatened.

Now that a final determination has been made to list this process as a key threatening process, the Department of Environment and Conservation will prepare a threat abatement plan to ameliorate the impacts of the key threatening process on biodiversity. This will be done in close consultation with NSW Fisheries, who manage the shark control programs on behalf of the NSW Government.

Send written public submissions to the Scientific Committee's executive officer.

4. How will a threat abatement plan help?

The Department of Environment and Conservation has three years to prepare a threat abatement plan. A threat abatement plan aims to reduce the impacts of a key threatening process on biodiversity, particularly the threatened species identified in a final determination. It will propose actions to abate, ameliorate or eliminate the effects of the key threatening process.

A threat abatement plan must also consider the likely social and economic consequences of the making of the plan. Draft threat abatement plans are placed on public exhibition for comment.

5. Will shark control programs continue on ocean beaches?

Yes. The final determination will not stop shark control programs that are currently in place. Strategies to reduce the impact of shark control programs on marine mammals and reptiles will be considered as part of a threat abatement plan. Any future actions proposed in a threat abatement plan would be developed in consultation with the community and NSW Fisheries.

6. Are fish also adversely affected?

The NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee is proposing to list a similar key threatening process, 'Current Shark Meshing Program in NSW waters', under the Fisheries Management Act. This is due to concerns that shark control programs could have an adverse affect on the survival of threatened fish species including the grey nurse shark, green sawfish and great white shark.

For information on the Fisheries Scientific Committee's proposed key threatening process, visit the Fisheries Scientific Committee website or call the Committee's executive officer on 02 8437 4972.

If a final determination is made to list the key threatening process under the Fisheries Management Act, it is possible for the Department of Environment and Conservation and NSW Fisheries to prepare a joint threat abatement plan.

7. Where can I get further information?

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Page last updated: 13 December 2013