Mako listing: practical realities

I’ve spent two weeks trying to get straight answers on a number of issues of critical concern to Australian anglers which emerge from Australia’s obligation to list shortfin and longfin mako and porbeagle sharks under our Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.

Under this Act, Australia must include any species once it’s listed in Appendix II of the international Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). It’s not a discretionary matter for the Minister of the day: once a species is listed internationally, we’ve got to list it, or we’re breaking our own law.

That’s irrespective of whether the species are threatened in our waters. Minister Garrett’s press release of December 18 acknowledges that “the Government recognised that globally many populations of mako sharks were depleted, however there was no evidence suggesting that Australian populations are similarly threatened”.

The press release further states: “As catch and release activities, when carried out properly, are not likely to have a significant impact on the populations of these shark species they are equally unlikely to be subject to enforcement action.”

Fisho has attempted to get direct answers on what anglers and tournament organisers will be able to do or not do, but trying to get a firm commitment on paper has not been particularly successful. So, from an analysis of press releases, position papers and non-specific answers, here’s what we think the answers to the most pressing questions are. If we’re wrong, then it’s up to the Minister’s Office to correct our position.

From January 29, 2010:

Q1. Where will it be illegal to kill and keep makos?
A1. Within Commonwealth marine areas, that is from 3 nautical miles offshore to 200 nautical miles, or the edge of the Continental Shelf if it goes out further than the 200.

Q2: Will it be an offence to catch a mako in these waters?
A2: No, as long as every effort is made to release the shark unharmed.

Q3: Can the sharks be tagged?
A3: Yes, carefully…

Q4: If a shark dies accidentally, can it be brought in and weighed?
A4: No, it must be released dead.

Q5: Can makos be specifically targeted in Commonwealth waters?
A5: No, but it’s acknowledged they may be hooked as by catch.

Q6: Will it be illegal to kill and keep makos within State and Territory waters?
Q6: Not at this time, but it could be in the future should the improved data collection the Minister has foreshadowed in his press release demonstrate that this action “was likely to have a significant impact on the species”, and presumably if individual Sate and Territory fisheries management agencies decided to apply there own restrictions within the waters they control (as they have with great whites).

Q7: Will it be legal to target makos within State and Territory waters and run mako tournaments that don’t intrude into Commonwealth waters?
A7: Unless the individual State and Territory fisheries management agencies change their respective rules, or the proposed data collection mentioned above demonstrates significant impacts, then yes. It would clearly be prudent to voluntarily make all mako fishing catch & release / tag & release to avoid triggering the “significant impact” provisions in the future.


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