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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Shark management

Sharks have been commercially fished off Western Australia (WA) since at least the 1940s. Increases in fishing pressure resulted in overfishing of shark stocks during the 19802 and 1990s, however, in recent decades, management controls have been introduced to ensure recovery of key shark populations.

Two commercial shark fisheries operate in the West Coast and South Coast Bioregions, collectively known as the Temperate Shark Fisheries. The type and amount of gear that operators in these fisheries can use is strictly managed.

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

In addition, the white shark, whale shark, speartooth shark, grey nurse shark – and all sawfish, which are related to sharks – are protected from all types of fishing.

Ecological risk assessments are undertaken every five years to assess the risk of WA fishing activities to target and bycatch species, and the broader ecosystem. Take a look at the results of the 2021 ecol​ogical risk assessment​.

Monitoring, assessment and research

Research on shark species in WA focuses mostly on monitoring the status of indicator species. For more information, see Fisheries Research Report No. 294, 2018​

We monitor the status of dusky, gummy, sandbar and whiskery sharks in several ways and analyse the data obtained to feed into stock assessments.

Catch and effort data from commercial and charter logbooks are reviewed annually, with Statewide surveys of recreational private boat-based fishers undertaken every two to three years since 2011/12. In the commercial fishing sector, a vessel monitoring system is also used to monitor the amount of fishing effort.

Major studies of WA’s shark resources have provided a detailed basis for future monitoring and assessment.

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

In 2020 and 2021, the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council and DPIRD conducted an Australian Government funded project that compared the use of demersal gillnets and demersal longlines in the Temperate Shark Fisheries. The project also helped to develop a greater understanding of the social and economic contributions of these fisheries to the WA community. Take a look at a summary of the results in the April 2022 fisheries science update. ​

This 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.

Shark mitigation

We are involved in both operational responses and research initiatives as part of a suite of shark mitigation strategies. To lead this effort, a Shark Response Unit has been established to research shark populations and movements, improve response plans and provide advice and information to ocean users.

We are also undertaking additional research into sharks and overseeing the development of a community engagement strategy to improve public safety and raise awareness of shark response and alert procedures.


Last modified: 25/08/2022 3:48 PM

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