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Scientists and fishermen work together to maintain shark stocks

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20 September 2006

Sharks play a vital role in keeping our seas healthy, but how they are coping with legal and illegal harvests in northern Australia is not fully understood.

Northern Territory scientists have recently started a three-year study into the sustainability of shark fishing in Australia's northern waters. Although the domestic fishery is small and well-managed, there are far greater potential threats from the increasing illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishery invading Australian waters each year.

With the help of local commercial fishermen, scientist Dr Iain Field, from Charles Darwin University and Australian Institute of Marine Science, has been tagging a large number of sharks in the fishery along the Northern Territory coastline.

"We now have a number of tagged sharks out there and it's really exciting knowing that when they are caught again, and hopefully released alive with their tags in place, we'll have a much better idea of how the sharks are responding to the fisheries. This can only be good for everyone".

The main aims of the study are to determine the effects of fishing on survival of sharks in the wild. Individual sharks are being marked with two highly visible plastic tags. When they are caught again by commercial or recreational fishermen, growth, survival and movement data will provide invaluable information.

NT Fisheries scientist Dr Rik Buckworth said all parties to the research had contributed greatly to its progress. NT Fisheries is pleased to be collaborating with Charles Darwin University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science and making a substantial contribution to this research in this area. But major contributors are the Offshore Net and Line Fishery Licensee Committee of the Northern Territory Seafood Council and local shark and mackerel fishermen. The project is funded by the Australian Research Council.

"We now have more than 20 sharks that have been caught, tagged and released, west of Darwin, mainly in the Dundee and Bynoe Harbour area. The area will be expanded along the coastline in the future.

"We ask that fishermen if they catch any of these sharks to please report them to us.

Fishermen are requested to report the tag colour and number, which species of shark was caught and the date and location of the catch, and if possible, photograph the fish and release it alive. And a reward is offered for the information."

Fishermen can contact NT Fisheries on the hotline 08 8 5511or

by sending an email to

Media Contacts:

Dr Iain Field

Phone: 08 8920 9230

If unavailable contact Dr Rik Buckworth ( on 08 89992135 or Dr Mark Meekan( on 08 8920 9240

Wendy Ellery , AIMS Media Liaison

Phone: 07 4753 4409

Mobile: 0418 729 265