Friday, June 03, 2011

NSW Grey Nurse Sharks - Leadership please!

Permanently disfigured GNS, Fish Rock - just one of many injured Sharks.

Ms Hodgkinson will obviously not be swayed.
Her appalling decision to repeal the fishing ban around Fish Rock and Green Island stands and it is time to move on and to focus on the future.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has started its public consultation.
I have read the discussion paper and must commend whoever has authored it for having produced a comprehensive and equitable representation of the issue at hand. As always, it is rather complicated and in essence pits Shark conservation against the interests of the aquatic user groups.

Now, before anybody starts being active.
This is not about screaming, wait for it: No Sharks, No Oxygen, No Future! in order to educate the NSW government and convince them to enact protection for the GNS. Very much thanks to the advocacy by Valerie, GNS are already a protected species in NSW and in several other Australian states.
From what I understand, and please do correct me if I'm wrong, this is about balancing the high vulnerability of GNS to harassment and accidental hooking against the totally legitimate aspirations of the fishermen but also other aquatic recreationists, see the example of the underwater scooters, to have access to the ocean. It is also about identifying and protecting the most critical GNS habitats and about eliminating inconsistencies in the rules governing the utilization of those areas. In essence, this is a question of zoning and resource management.
As I said, this is complicated and finding solutions will inevitably imply a high degree of knowledge about specific local circumstances.

From what I can sense, the cards are not stacked in our favor.
The track record clearly shows that the "other" side is well organized and politically well connected, and I fully expect their submissions to be well coordinated, well presented and smart. As a minimum, the submissions by the Shark protection advocates need to be equally impressive and not just a motley collection of ideas and opinions, however brilliant - and right now, this is where it appears to be heading, with different advocates urging the public to please write something.
That is just not quite good enough.

With that in mind, there is an urgent need for leadership.
Could somebody in the know please step up and co-ordinate the conservation effort.
Maybe draft several well supported templates for submissions by the different stated Australian interest groups (but also including one for Shark diving tourists!) and post them online. Or maybe, draft a new specific campaign letter (this one is probably too general) to which Shark advocates can adhere.
I'm just suggesting, maybe there are other more effective strategies.

Possible candidates?
Maybe the Nature Conservation Council of NSW? Maybe the concerned dive operators? Maybe the good folks of Spot a Shark? Maybe (probably not!) a political party? Maybe one of the Australian Shark research institutions? Maybe one of the global Shark conservation NGOs, maybe via a local proxy? Maybe a coalition of some of the above?

Consultations end on August 26.
That's not a lot of time for coordinating a unified and effective campaign and for then collecting a multitude of pro-Shark comments by the public.

Can somebody please step up to the plate.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I believe that there isnt enough time to organise "leadership" for this important issue which has a deadline of 26 August 2011. The most important issue at this current time is to spread the word to others and for them to make online submissions in favour for increased portection and ultimately for these critical aggregation sites to be zoned as Commonwealth Marine Parks. It also has to be know that the plite the GNS on the east coast of Australia is very important as it was the first shark ever in the world to recieve a government protection (1984) and it is listed as a Critically endangered species. The discussion paper and submissions are regarding the protection of the Grey Nurse Habitats and critical aggregation sites in NSW not the sharks themselves. The Discussion paper and submission forms mislead the reader to believe that the shark itself needs protection when in fact it already is.
Fishing Restrictions at Fish Rock and Green Island where place January 2011 by the then Labor State government around the mention areas to increase the level of protection and where back by scientific studies to date. These restrictions were basically only allowing for low impact surface fishing (Trolling, spinning, and spear fishing) to be carried out near these critical habitats and major aggregation sites of the critically endangered Grey Nurse Shark. Studies conducted my the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) have shown that other forms of line fishing (baited, lures, jigs etc) have had an impact on the population of the GNS and as a result a number of these sharks have died or received injuries as a result of this form of fishing.
May 2011 saw the evoking of Labors increased levels of protection at Fish Rock/Green Island and disallowed the restricted zoning at the Solitaries Islands and Jervis Bay. This evoking was a result of pre-election promises by the Coalition and now endorsed by now by the Coalitions Primary Industry Minister Katrina Hodgkinson and Minister for the Environment Robyn Parker.
The current NSW Government has subsequently revoked the closures and committed to a further three months consultation to provide additional opportunity for the community to have a say in the decision making process.
I find this hypocritical when in a press release ( Minister Hodgkinson states The NSW Government is committed to commonsense marine parks policy that is based on science, not politics,. I personally don’t see the science in asking a small community which is biased towards fishing as scientific.

Mark Gray

Anonymous said...

Part 2
Commonsense would show that under the precautionary principle of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act it would be proper scientific procedure to carry out the review and only then remove any unnecessary protection.
In the discussion paper released by Minster Hodgkinson own Department it states During 2010, the NSW Government (Labor party which is in opposition) at the time, reviewed fishing arrangements at Fish Rock & Green Island, and North & South Solitary Islands in response to recent scientific research highlighting the impact of bait fishing in proximity to grey nurse shark aggregations. The reviews concluded with new fishing rules being implemented at these sites in January and March 2011 respectively.

Dr Will Robins study Investigating the behavioural response of grey nurse sharks to recreational lures and baited lines which was conducted at Fish Rock shows that GNS do responed to bait and lure fishing as we already know with the amount of photographic evidence which divers have obtained over the years at Fish Rock and Green Island.
The study which is also found on the DPI website states the following:
Grey nurse sharks clearly interact with static baits deployed close to their aggregations. All bait types were taken at all times of day, and grey nurse sharks were the only bait-takers after dusk. Even the least taken bait types resulted in frequent (10%) shark interactions, demonstrating that bottom-set baits pose a high interaction risk when deployed around grey nurse shark aggregations.
This shows that the DPI has actually performed the research directly at the issue at Fish Rock/Green Island regarding the issue of fishing with bait and lures.
So yes the State government did indeed respond to scientific research but unfortunately for the GNS it was conducted by the Labor State government and not the current Coalition State government, which I find even more hypocritical when you read the title of Minster Hodgkinson and Minister Parkers press release titled NSW GOVERNMENT TAKES THE POLITICS OUT OF MARINE PARKS.
Mark Gray

Anonymous said...

Part 3
It seems that the Minister of Primary Industries doesnt actually know anything about the portfolio she is in charge of. To re-quote the Minster's own words again:
"Minister Hodgkinson states The NSW Government is committed to commonsense marine parks policy that is based on science, not politics,
With the research already conducted by Minister Hodgkinson's DPI in favour for increased levels of protection for areas where the GNS have major aggregation sites, it shows that commonsense isnt found in the current leadership of the state government and the politics is the cause of the evoking of fishing restrictions as a pre election vote grab from a small community which is biased towards recreational fishing and not the concern about a critically endangered species.
Why is the community had to be consulted when the Minister herself states that "Marine parks policy is based on science, not politics??"
So what happens now? Basically it is a numbers game. The more submissions individuals and groups put in favour for increased protection of the Critical aggregation sites of the GNS the more chance that these areas will have their level of restrictions/protection increased. The submissions at the end of the day will reflect the view of the community at whole. This community isn’t just the local community around these areas but anyone who has a interest in protecting a critically endangered species like the GNS. Hopefully with enough submissions the current state government will grant these special areas higher restricted fishing zones or better still have them zoned as a Commonwealth Marine Park and not the vote buying tool of state and local governments.

The Online submission form is biased towards those that reside in Australia by having you select which state and postcode you live. This is most likely been a result of them not expecting any submissions from outside of the country. Therefore since they have left off a section for the overseas vote, I would recommend that you use your home address and choose NSW with postcode 2431 (postcode of South West Rocks).
To make a Submission you can either do it online at:
Or print and post using:
So if you want to protect the habitat of the GNS on the East coast of NSW now is the time to act and simply taking a few minutes in filling out the online submission form is the way to do this and Spread the word through social networks and friends.

Mark Gray

DaShark said...

Mark: thanks, great!

This is very useful indeed & I shall post excerpts from your comment and ask others to re-post on blogger, fb and twitter.

If there's anything you may want to add or elaborate upon, please write to and we'll be happy to oblige.


Brendan Trewin said...

There is and will be a significant response from the Australian scientific and conservation/environmental community regarding this decision by the NSW government. I have received communications from the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Oceania Chondrichthyan Society regarding the steps they are both taking. So don't worry! Get behind your local conservation (and science!) organisations because they will be stepping up in the near future.

DaShark said...

Excellent news Brendan!

As always, it's complicated and any info/guidance will be hugely beneficial.

I've talked some more to Mark and will post additional info shortly.

Excellent website btw!

DaShark said...

New post here