Shark anglers force backdown

In the wake of mounting opposition, recreational fishers will continue to be allowed to catch mako sharks under changes to Federal Government laws. As has been widely reported at Fisho, fishing for short-finned mako sharks in Australia was due to be banned last Friday because Australia was a signatory to an international treaty, the Convention on Migratory Species.

The UN-sponsored treaty, which aims to protect migratory animals, fish and birds, ordered the ban on mako shark fishing because of a decline in mako shark numbers in the Mediterranean and the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

Growing opposition from game fishing clubs and individual recreational anglers, who had rightly argued the population of makos off Australia’s east coast was considered healthy, had been backed by marine scientists.

“Banning fishing for them here would do absolutely nothing to help those sharks in the northern hemisphere – there’s no migration between them at all,” said marine scientist Dr Julian Pepperell.

As a result of the growing opposition, Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said he would allow catch & release fishing for makos after the international ban came into effect on Friday.

Federal Coalition spokesman for Fisheries Senator Richard Colbeck had vocally opposed the bans and said Minister Garrett’s long overdue backdown was the result of an extensive campaign.

“The mako shark fishing backdown is a win for grassroots politics,” Senator Colbeck said.

“My office has received over 5000 petition signatures calling on Minister Garrett to postpone the ban and conduct genuine consultation with recreational fishing groups. Hundreds have also joined packed public meetings on the issue.”

Not all stakeholder groups received the news of the ban backdown well.

“Australia’s national environment legislation (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999) cannot be watered down on a whim to pander to the wishes of the recreational and charter fishing sector,” said Australian Marine Conservation Society Director Darren Kindleysides in a press statement.

While catch & release for makos is legal the killing of the sharks is not – until the law is changed, expected to take place when Federal Parliament sits next month.

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