What the hell is happening with Makos?

As regular readers of the Fisho website know, we’ve been covering the mako issue ever since it broke a few weeks back. A brief recount of the situation is as follows: An international treaty known as the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) has listed long and short fin mako sharks, along with the lesser known porbeagle. This listing seems to be primarily because populations of these sharks are seriously depleted in foreign waters, notably the Mediterranean Sea. There is no scientific data to indicate that makos or porbeagles are in anyway threatened in our waters.

In simple terms, that CMS listing means that federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has little choice but to list the sharks as “migratory species” under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This listing means the sharks are supposed to be “conserved throughout their range”.

There has been widespread speculation that Minister Garrett would totally ban fishing for makos, a prized gamefish. The federal Opposition and various angling groups have been highly critical of Garrett over this issue, which is understandable but not all that fair as he is obliged by law to list the sharks.

Angling groups, including the NSWGFA, have also expressed anger that Garrett had failed to consult with them. In our view, it would have made sense for the Minister to talk with anglers, especially prestigious game fishing organizations such as the NSWGFA, before all this hoo-haa started.

While it seems highly likely that the killing makos – whether for food or for records – will now be banned, the Government seems to be backpedaling on the contentious issue of catch & release fishing for them.
A press release just issued by the Minister’s office seems to indicate that fisheries authorities will turn a blind eye to C&R fishing for makos, thus meaning that gamefishers can catch the sharks but have to release them.

Shark fishing is a minority aspect of gamefishing, and a lot of people – myself included – do have serious issues with catching big sharks and killing them for no reason apart from a bit of glory at the gantry. But we have to be aware that this issue could be the thin edge of the wedge. Banning anything for no justifiable reason is just not acceptable.

As part of this special Fishing World e-newsletter, we’ve published the the full transcript of Minister Garrett’s press release, as well as analysis of it by Environment Minister John Newbery HERE.

A press release from Opposition Fisheries spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck is also included, as is a petition protesting against any ban on fishing for makos. It has to be said that the federal Opposition is playing a few political games with its huffing and puffing about this issue, because if it was in power it would be doing the same thing as Garrett.

The fact is the federal Government has little room to move on the CMS listing of makos – it has to protect them by law. However, the levels of that protection seem to be fairly flexible. As you see when you read the Minister’s press release, the Government is trying to stymie the bad PR a total ban on fishing for makos would incur. It is saying, more or less, that if we catch them and let them go then that’s ok. Well, that’s what we think it means, anyway. Read it, and John Newbery’s analysis, and make up your own mind.

It probably wouldn’t hurt to sign the petition either, just to remind Mr Garrett that we’re out there and we’re watching what he and his Government are doing re fisheries-related issues.

The scary thing is that this international CMS treaty has power over a whole range of pelagic species, including tunas and billfish. And that is something we don’t even want to think about.

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