Several species of shark are protected in Australia by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Sometimes sharks interact with fishing gear.
Sharks belong to a group of cartilaginous fishes called elasmobranchs, who use gills to obtain oxygen from the water.
Some sharks are bottom feeders, with a specially designed jaw to help them pick up prey from the bottom of the ocean. Others are filter feeders, straining plankton from the water. Some sharks lay eggs, some bear live young, and some have eggs which hatch internally.
Several species of shark are protected in Australia. These include:
- grey nurse shark
- great white shark
- dwarf sawfish
- green sawfish
- shortfin mako
- school shark
- Harrisson’s dogfish
- southern dogfish.
Fishing and sharks – how they interact
Sharks can interact with many types of fishing gear.
An ‘interaction’ is any physical contact a person, boat or fishing gear has with a protected species that causes the animal stress, injury or death.
While there are some species of shark that have been protected by government legislation, gummy shark can be commercially caught within sustainable catch limits.
Another category of shark species are those that are neither protected nor targeted for commercial fishing. These species of shark are caught by Commonwealth fisheries incidentally during fishing operations. This incidental catch is referred to as bycatch.
Management measures are in place to minimise the bycatch of shark species and AFMA is continuously working to reduce the incidental catch of sharks.
How AFMA and industry minimise interactions
- Mitigation measures
- National plan of action for the conservation and management of sharks
- Upper-Slope Dogfish Management Strategy
- Migratory shark species
- School Shark Rebuilding Strategy
- Bycatch and discard workplans
- Shark and ray handling practices
- Shark finning FAQs
- a ban on wire traces
- a ban on shark finning
- a requirement for line cutters
- a limit on the retention of migratory shark species
- closures intended to mitigate catch of other protected species which incidentally mitigate catch of these shark species (e.g. area closures under the Australian Sea Lion Management Strategy).
The plan identifies how Australia will manage and conserve sharks, and ensure that Australia meets international conservation and management obligations. The plan identifies research and management actions across Australia for the sustainability of sharks, including actions to help minimise the impacts of fishing on sharks.
Australia’s second National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks 2012 (Department of Agriculture website)
Provided an operator is fishing in accordance with an accredited AFMA fisheries management plan, the operator may keep and trade these migratory sharks that are brought up dead, however, live sharks must be returned to the sea unharmed as per advice from the Department of the Environment.
All catches of these migratory sharks, whether kept or discarded, must be reported in the appropriate logbooks.
When targeting gummy shark, fishers may also incidentally catch school shark which are considered to be overfished.
School shark is subject to a rebuilding strategy with limits on catch levels that will support rebuilding of the stock. Targeting school shark is not permitted.
View the School Shark Rebuilding Strategy
Read more about bycatch and discarding workplans
Read more about Shark and Ray Handling Practices
Read more about shark finning in our shark finning FAQs
AFMA collects data on interactions with protected species through our monitoring programs.
- Logbooks – All fishers are required to report any interactions they have through their logbooks.
- Observers – Observers are AFMA officers who travel on Australian fishing boats to collect biological data and make environmental observations which contributes to the monitoring of fishing interactions with protected species.