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25 February 2010
Environment Minister Peter Garrett today introduced a new bill into the House of Representatives to allow the continuation of recreational fishing of mako and porbeagle sharks.
Mr Garrett said the amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provide for a balance between protecting the shark species in a way that reflects our national circumstances and does not disproportionately affect recreational fishers.
"The recent listing of mako and porbeagle sharks under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which was based primarily on concerns for northern hemisphere populations, meant that they automatically had to be protected under the national environment law.
"However, with a lack of evidence to suggest that Australian populations of these shark species face the same threats as other parts of the world, and as there would be no demonstrably significant conservation benefit from banning recreational fishing for these species, the Government is acting to ensure that recreational fishers can continue to catch these sharks," Mr Garrett said.
"Australia takes its international obligations seriously, however we also believe that our national environment law should properly reflect our international obligations while also providing the flexibility to properly take into account our particular domestic circumstances. That is what this change will achieve."
Mr Garrett said the decision to make the change was backed by an independent review of the national environment law handed to the Government late last year, which identified that the EPBC Act was too inflexible in requiring species on Appendix II to the CMS to be automatically listed as migratory, and by having only limited exceptions when it comes to interactions with listed species.
"While the Government will consider this recommendation in the context of a broader review of the EPBC Act, this amendment cannot wait for the full review process.
"A number of Government MPs, including the Member for Corangamite, Darren Cheeseman, and the Member for Braddon, Sid Sidebottom, have been promoting the need for a practical solution to this issue within Government, and I'm pleased to say we will deliver that and I look forward to this bill passing through the Parliament quickly."
Mr Garrett said the Environment Department had been working with fishing tournament organisers to enable events to proceed in the interim period since January 29 when the listing of the species took effect. The Government had also indicated that catch and release fishing for the shark species was not expected to have a significant impact on populations and was therefore unlikely to be subject to enforcement action.
The Environment Department is also working with fishery managers to improve data on mako and porbeagle sharks in Australian waters, to provide a more comprehensive information base on these shark species for the future.
The Government is working to ensure shark conservation globally, including by pursuing a global Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks earlier this month. This MOU is one example of Australia's commitment to shark conservation, and is a welcome step towards enhanced international cooperation and collaboration on the conservation of these species, in keeping with our obligations under the Convention.