The federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, may be forced to ban gamefishermen from catching mako sharks because of an international conservation treaty.
The Environment Department has sent information to RecFish Australia CEO Len Olyott stating that: "In December 2008 a number of species were added to Appendix II to the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), an international treaty that aims to conserve migratory species throughout their range (www.cms.int). The species added include three species of shark that occur in Australian waters: short fin mako; long fin mako; and porbeagle.
"Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) requires that any species included on the appendices to the CMS must automatically be listed as migratory species under national environmental law. Consequently, the Australian Government Minister for the Environment is required to list these three species of shark as migratory species under the EPBC Act.
"The listing will have implications for some fishers, including some commercial, recreational and charter operators. The (Environment Department) is currently preparing more detailed advice on these matters, which will be forwarded to stakeholders, including RecFish Australia, in the coming days."
Mako sharks are a prized gamefish along the south-east of Australia and are well known for their aggressive fights and spectacular leaps. Smaller makos are good eating but larger fish are now generally released.
A press release at the CMS website states that mako populations have declined by up to 96 per cent in the Mediterranean Sea. "This species urgently requires introduction of collaborative sustainable science-based fisheries management measures," the CMS press release stated.
Fishing World is not aware of any data presented by the CMS or the federal Government on mako stocks in Australian waters.
While the species is a popular recreational target, makos also form a significant commercial catch.
A 2005 report by the Scientific Committee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission states that "shortfin mako is a significant byproduct species in the domestic eastern longline fishery".
According to the report, most of the makos caught by the longline fleet were in coastal waters off Mooloolaba in Queensland down to Bermagui on the NSW South Coast. "Reported catch in the eastern longline fishery increased from 21 tonnes in 1995/6 to peak at 181 tonnes (4600 fish) in 1999/2000, before declining to 89.9 tonnes in 2002/03," the report said.
Fishing World is unsure of the exact ramifications of the CMS treaty involving mako sharks. At the worst, it could mean that Garrett is "forced" by international convention to ban all fishing - recreational and commercial - for makos, although some commentators have already said the "we are only doing what we are told" line would be a cop out by Garrett and the Government.
It is more likely, however, that restrictions on fishing gear and bag limits would be among the options to be explored by the Government.
Similar treaty obligations for other fish species, including sawfish, have, however, seen complete fishing bans imposed.
Fisho will keep you up-to-date with all the info on this issue as soon as we get it.