Marine Fisheries News - Why Sharks are Special
Sharks are the top predators in our marine ecosystems. They are highly vulnerable to overfishing because they are long lived, slow to mature and produce fewer offspring compared with other fish. Sharks play an important role in our oceans by cleaning up dead and dying marine species.
How Many Sharks are Caught?
The estimated number of sharks and rays caught by recreational fishers during 2007-08 was 41 000. Of these, 32 000 (78%) were released and only 9 000 were retained. Sharks and rays are one of the main species caught by gillnetting although hook and line fishing is also common.
The main reason that sharks and rays tend to be released is because of the poorer eating qualities of some species such as dogfish and draughtboard shark. The other reason is that fishing rules in Shark Refuge Areas don’t allow sharks to be retained.
Catch and Possession Limits
There are size, possession and boat limits which apply when fishing for sharks. There are also restrictions on gear, fishing areas and the type of bait which can be used.
School and gummy sharks have a minimum legal size of 750mm or 450mm if headed and tailed. The combined possession limit is 2 sharks.
There is a boat limit of 5 sharks and rays combined including school and gummy sharks but excluding elephantfish. Elephantfish are not included in the boat limit but still have a possession limit of 2 per person.
Sharks are often caught using hooks either with a rod and line or a set line. A set line is either a longline or a dropline with up to 30 hooks attached which can be left unattended. Set lines are not permitted in Shark Refuge Areas. People possessing or using set lines must have a recreational sea fishing licence specifying set lines.
Be aware that although you are allowed to use up to 30 hooks on a set line, the more hooks you use, the more likely you are to potentially exceed your bag limit and waste fish. Remember that you are responsible for what you catch, so try to limit the number of hooks on your line if there is a risk of overcatching.
Only one set line may be used by a licence holder, however in waters of more than 150 metres depth, more than three licence holders can join their lines together provided no person uses more than 30 hooks and no more than 90 hooks are used on the line. Also, no more than 120 hooks can be set and no more than 4 set lines may be on a vessel.
Licence holders using set lines must be present when the line is set and retrieved. Both longlines and droplines should be clearly marked with your licence number and the letters “LL” for longline and “DL” for dropline on the marker buoys. The buoys used must be at least 195cm in diameter.
Shark Finning Rules
When catching and retaining sharks in Tasmania, you must leave the following fins attached until you have landed them.
The dorsal and pectoral fins must remain attached to all shark until they are landed. You can remove some other fins to assist with bleeding. If you remove the head of a school or gummy shark, then it must measure at least 450mm from the back of the gill slit to the start of the tail.
These rules about shark finning were introduced to abide by international agreements to help prevent the illegal trade in valuable shark fins and to ensure that sharks are handled responsibly. The rules apply to all recreational and commercial fishers.
When cleaning your catch, be mindful of fish waste and how you dispose of it. Shark heads and frames take some time to decompose so dispose of them in a responsible manner either by returning them to deeper water or at an appropriate refuse disposal area.
Shark Refuge Areas
Shark Refuge Areas have been set aside in Tasmanian waters to protect sharks, particularly school and gummy sharks. Fishing is restricted in these sheltered habitats so sharks can breed and raise their young.
No shark, skate or ray other than elephantfish can be taken in Shark Refuge Areas and recreational fishing gear restrictions apply. The use of set lines and mullet nets is prohibited and where permitted, gillnets may only be set for up to 2 hours.
Key coastal embayments in Tasmania with known important habitat critical to the breeding of sharks and rays which have been declared as Shark
Refuge Areas are:
• Port Sorell
• River Tamar
• Georges Bay
• Great Oyster Bay
• East Coast Waters (between Seaford Pt and Cape Bougainville)
• Mercury Passage
• Blackman Bay
• Pitt Water
• Frederick Henry and Norfolk Bay
• Derwent River
• D’Entrecasteaux Channel
Whilst there are no declared Shark Refuge Areas in the North West, there are a number of bays that may be important for breeding, so it’s important that you fish responsibly. Stick to the size and possession limit and consider the gear that you use.
Protected Sharks and Rays
The following sharks and rays are protected: White Shark (known as Great White or White Pointer Shark), Maugean Skate, Grey Nurse Shark, Megamouth Shark and Whale and Basking Sharks. If encountered, they must be returned to the water.