Year

2011

Degree Name

Master of Environmental Science Research

Department

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Abstract

Declining populations of the grey nurse shark Carcharias taurus have been observed throughout much of the species global range. Consequently, the grey nurse shark is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red-List of Threatened species (IUCN Red – List).

In recognition of the decline in sharks more broadly, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) first directed focus toward improved elasmobranch protection through the International Plan of Action for the conservation and management of sharks (IPOA–Sharks). In accordance with the requirements of the IPOA–Sharks, member states agreed to adopt a National Plan of Action (NPOA), if sharks were regularly caught in either directed or non-directed fisheries of their respective jurisdictions.

In the current research, I have used the IPOA–Sharks as a benchmark, to critically examine the adequacies of management and the respective legislative processes in place for the protection of grey nurse sharks in three locations: the North–west Atlantic, South Africa and Australia. The effectiveness of the overarching IPOA–Sharks strategy in achieving robust conservation outcomes for grey nurse sharks has also been considered. Finally, an assessment of the science that has historically underpinned policy decisions since the species was initially protected was also undertaken to help identify any shortcomings or potential for improvement.

The research indicated that, despite progress in some areas of management since the initial FAO agreement, the effectiveness of the IPOA–Sharks to initiate and influence targeted national actions is limited for some species. While it is evident grey nurse sharks remain vulnerable at a global scale, the species’ inshore distribution and potential for interaction with a number of stakeholders has made management a particularly contentious issue. Alternative strategies to address this challenge have been proposed with the goal of strengthening the future management, conservation and protection of grey nurse sharks, both within Australian waters, and globally.

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