SURROUNDED: School shark can be found in temperate waters all around Tasmania, down to a depth of about 550 metres. Picture: Supplied/IUCN

SURROUNDED: School shark can be found in temperate waters all around Tasmania, down to a depth of about 550 metres. Picture: Supplied/IUCN

International scientific body lists school shark as critically endangered

School shark listed as critically endangered by International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Agriculture
Aa

The current quota allows for 195 tonnes of bycatch

Aa

A shark species often taken as "bycatch" in Tasmania has been listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The school shark - known as 'tope' or 'flake' - has now joined the hammerhead shark in the ranks of critically endangered animals which are legally sold and consumed in Australia.

The shark was assessed earlier this year, and moved to "critical" in the July 11 update of the IUCN Red List - one step down from "extinct in the wild" and two from "extinct".

It's getting tiring hearing that 'Australia's fisheries are fine' when they're not - we have big issues in our backyard that need to be sorted, and sorted out now. - Dr Leonardo Guida

Shark scientist at the Australian Marine Conservation Society Dr Leonardo Guida said the school shark population in Australia had crashed to about 10 per cent of its original numbers over the past century.

"I'm gutted but I can't say I didn't see this coming," he said.

"It's getting tiring hearing that 'Australia's fisheries are fine' when they're not - we have big issues in our backyard that need to be sorted, and sorted out now."

Source: Australian Government

Source: Australian Government

He said the Tasmanian smooth handfish had become the first fish in modern times to be declared extinct last year, largely because of Australian fishing.

"The school shark is looking at the same fate because of the way we fish for gummy shark. Where do we draw the line?" he said.

"We urgently need to move away from fishing for school shark altogether. It's clear our current environmental laws are not working, and in the meantime we need to reconsider our consumption of 'flake' or shark meat."

School shark are currently classified in Australia as Conservation Dependent under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which still allows for legal consumption.

In 2020 the quota is at 195 tonnes of unavoidable bycatch when targeting gummy shark.

Picture: Simon Sturzaker

Picture: Simon Sturzaker

According to the Department of Agriculture, school shark is the second most economically important species in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF) after gummy shark, even though it has not been the primary target species since the 1980s.

The SESSF Shark Resource Assessment Group noted the Australian government's research around stock levels was complex, held conflicting scientific opinions, had strong conflicts of interest and had substantial implications, making it a good candidate for independent peer review.

Aa