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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Shark management

Sharks have been fished off Western Australia since at least the 1940s but, in recent decades, management controls have been introduced to ensure the industry’s sustainability.

We aim to rebuild and/or maintain populations of key shark species at least above 40 per cent of their estimated pre-fishing biomass (population).

The type of fishing gear which can be used, such as gillnets or longlines, is strictly specified as is the amount of time that fishers can fish in particular areas.

In addition, the white shark, whaler sharks, whale shark, northern river shark (also known as the northern speartooth shark), grey nurse shark – and all sawfish, which are related to sharks – are protected from all types of fishing.

Although there has traditionally been little recreational fishing for sharks in WA, management arrangements such as 
bag limits are in place to ensure shark stocks 
are protected.


Research programs


Major studies of Western Australia’s shark fisheries on the south and west coasts have provided a detailed basis for future monitoring and assessment.

Several FRDC funded studies from 1993–2004 provided extensive biological and fishery information to develop stock assessment models for the fisheries’ key target stocks.

A new three-year FRDC funded study of the movements of the fisheries’ four indicator shark stocks commenced in 2011. Results from this study will be used to reassess the status of these stocks.

Additionally, further research has been completed on the potential risks of gillnets to species such as sea lions.

In March 2012, following a series fatal shark incidents, the Western Australian Government established a Shark Response Unit​ to undertake additional research into sharks.

The research includes:

  • Testing for correlations between shark sightings and factors such as water temperature, prey abundance, whale movements, weather or the time of day and time of year,
  • Extending an existing white shark monitoring program,
  • Studying the impact of changes in fisheries management on shark numbers, and
  • Reviewing research on the effectiveness of shark mitigation strategies including beach netting.
  • A scientific non-lethal SMART drumline trial which commenced on 21 February 2019.

This new research adds to that routinely done by our scientists who assess populations of key shark species using computer models and information arising from the activities of commercial fishers.​​​

Last modified: 21/04/2020 2:20 PM

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