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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

13 February 2004

Australia Moves to Protect the Great White Shark

The Australian Government is championing the cause of a much-maligned species by pushing for a global ban on the trade in Great White Shark products.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, announced today that Australia would be nominating the Great White Shark for listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) at the next meeting of member countries in October this year.

"Despite being one of the fiercest predators in the ocean, the Great White Shark is extremely vulnerable," Dr Kemp said.

"Great White Sharks mature very slowly and females give birth to a small number of young only every two to three years, so that the international trade in shark products can have a major impact on population numbers.

"The Great White is also much rarer than most other sharks. Scientific evidence suggests the population has declined by at least 20 per cent over the last three generations, and even more in some areas.

"It is extremely vulnerable to target and bycatch fisheries, some of which supply high-value products for international trade.

"Products derived from the Great White Shark include 'trophy' items such as jaws and teeth, and fins for foods like shark fin soup. Increasing demand for these products has increased their value. Recent reports have identified sums of up to $50,000 paid for jaws from South Africa and $600 for individual teeth.

"A CITES listing will make it illegal for any of the 161 member countries to trade in Great White Shark products."

The Great White Shark is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which catalogues and highlights species that are facing a high risk of global extinction. But the IUCN notes that "a global status of endangered may prove more accurate for this shark as further data are collected".

"While we don't know how many Great White Sharks remain in the world's oceans, all the scientific evidence points to a decline in the abundance and average size of the species," Dr Kemp said.

"The Great White is a highly migratory species and unless global action is taken to protect it and its habitat, it could face extinction.

"Australia is already recognised as a world leader in the protection of sharks. We successfully lobbied for the listing of the Great White Shark on the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS) in 2002. The species is fully protected in Australia under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. While it also receives protection in the USA, South Africa, Namibia, Malta and the Maldives, only a global trade ban will give the Great White a fighting chance of survival."

Fact Sheet

Actions to Protect Toothfish

CITES Achievements

Cites Appendices

CoP - 'conference of the parties' of members/parties of CITES

Commonwealth of Australia