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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries

Shark commercial fishing

Western Australia (WA) is home to some of the longest standing target shark fisheries in Australia.

Commercial shark fishing in WA is managed under different arrangements in the north and south of the State.

The Northern Shark Fisheries comprises of the State-managed WA North Coast Shark Fishery in the Pilbara and western Kimberley, and the Joint Authority Northern Shark Fishery in the eastern Kimberley.

Populations of some commercially targeted shark species in WA have been under a recovery plan since the mid-1990s. This includes the effective closure of most of the Northern Shark Fisheries to protect key habitat for adult sandbar and dusky sharks. Other recovery measures include a prohibition on the retention of sharks by commercial fishers outside of the recognised ‘shark’ fisheries.

Two commercial shark fisheries continue to operate within the West Coast Bioregion (WCB) and South Coast Bioregion (SCB) which are collectively called the Temperate Shark Fisheries. These fisheries specifically target smaller juvenile and sub-adult sharks and are an important source of locally caught sustainable seafood for the WA community.

The majority of operators use demersal gillnets to target sharks, primarily dusky, sandbar, gummy and whiskery sharks, with scalefish taken in smaller amounts.

Commercial fishers in WA can only possess and land whole or trunked (gutted with head removed) sharks, with fins naturally attached (exemptions for pelvic, anal, and part of caudal fins​). See our brochure for more details​​

The Temperate Shark Fisheries operate under Commonwealth environmental approval and in 2018, a network of 33 gillnet exclusion zones were established around Australian Sea Lion (ASL) colonies in the WCB and SCB. The zones range from six to 33 kilometres in radius and seek to balance ASL conservation concerns, with the need to maintain a viable commercial fishery that delivers economic and social benefits to the community.

Commercial fishing arrangements for these fisheries can be found in their management plans and vessel monitoring system approved directions: 

  • West Coast Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Interim Managed Fishery Management Plan 1997;
  • Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery Management Plan 2018; 
  • West Coast Demersal Gillet and Demersal Longline Interim Managed Fishery Vessel Monitoring System Approved Directions; and 
  • Southern Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Managed Fishery Vessel Monitoring System Approved Directions.

The latest catch, stock status, broader ecosystem impacts and social and economic outcomes for these fisheries can be found in the annual Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia

Last modified: 11/10/2023 7:55 AM

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