Death or injury to marine species following capture in shark control programs on ocean beaches - key threatening process listing

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, 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 in Schedule 3 of the Act. Listing of key threatening processes is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

The Scientific Committee has noted the preliminary recommendation made by the Fisheries Scientific Committee established under Part 7A of the Fisheries Management Act 1994 to list "The Shark Meshing Program in New South Wales waters" as a Key Threatening Process. This recommendation states that the endangered species, the Grey Nurse Shark (Charcharias taurus) and the vulnerable species, the Great White Shark (Charcharodon charcharias), are adversely affected by shark meshing programs.

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee has found that:

1. Shark control programs are designed to intercept and kill sharks near beaches thereby reducing the populations of potentially dangerous sharks. It is believed that these programs will reduce the likelihood of a shark attack. Three species of shark have been identified as most likely to be responsible for attacks in inshore continental waters, namely the Great White Shark Carcharodon carcharias, the Bull Shark Carcharhinus leucas and the Tiger Shark Galeocerdo cuvier (Last and Stevens 1994).

2. In NSW, shark control programs currently comprise beach meshing with nets at 49 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong (Krogh and Reid 1996). The use of baited drumlines is not used as a shark control measure off NSW beaches. The mesh nets are not intended to act as a complete barrier to sharks. Beach meshing programs in NSW waters are operated as a 'pulse fishing operation', with nets set for approximately six months of the year between September and April.

3. Implementation of shark control programs on ocean beaches results in the bycatch of a wide variety of non-target marine species, including the following threatened species:

Endangered Species

Caretta caretta Loggerhead Turtle
Dugong dugon Dugong

Vulnerable Species

Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus Australian Fur-seal
Chelonia mydas Green Turtle
Dermochelys coriacea Leathery Turtle
Megaptera novaeangliae Humpback Whale

The NSW population of the Dugong is considered to be the result of temporary movements of individuals from the Moreton Bay population or the Harvey Bay populations (Smith 2001). Recent declines in both these populations (Marsh et al. 2002) place them at risk from any additional sources of mortality in NSW. Similarly, the collapse of the eastern Australian population of the Loggerhead Turtle over the last 20 years (Cogger 2000) has led to the species listed as endangered at both the Commonwealth and State levels. Death of Loggerhead Turtles in shark meshing programs has been established for NSW waters and would add to the factors causing the decline of this species.

4. In view of the above the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that the Death or injury to marine species following capture in shark control programs on ocean beaches adversely affects two or more threatened species.

Associate Professor Paul Adam
Scientific Committee

Proposed Gazettal date: 05/12/03
Exhibition period: 05/12/03 - 06/02/04


Cogger HG (2001) 'The Status of Marine Reptiles in New South Wales.' Unpublished Report to NSW Scientific Committee. Sydney. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville NSW.

Krogh M, Reid D (1996) Bycatch in the protective shark meshing programme off south-eastern New South Wales, Australia. Biological Conservation 77, 219-226.

Last PR, Stevens JD (1994) 'Sharks and Rays of Australia.' (CSIRO: Melbourne)

Marsh H, Penrose H, Eros C, Hugues J (2002) 'Dugong Status Reports and Action Plans for Countries and Territories.' UNEP Early Warning and Assessment Report Series. UNEP/DEWA/RS.02-1. Retrieved 20 June, 2003 from

Smith P (2001) 'Review of the Conservation Status of Marine Mammal Species in NSW.' Report to NSW Scientific Committee. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville NSW.