A National population assessment for white sharks [ 2015-07-01 - ]

Research Grant

[Cite as]

Researchers: Barry Bruce (Principal investigator) ,  Russell Bradford

Brief description

White sharks are listed as Vulnerable under the EPBC Act and the subject of a national recovery plan, yet there is still no effective way to assess their population status and thus no way of determining the efficacy of conservation actions. Recent debate due to various human-shark interactions has highlighted the need to for further information. This project will provide a national assessment of population size and status in order to establish the efficacy of existing recovery actions and provide a scientifically sound and rational basis from which to develop policies that balance conservation objectives and public safety.

NESP research on white sharks will focus on refining the initial population estimates for eastern Australia using data streams established under NERP and will provide first estimates of adult population size for white sharks west of Bass Strait. Estimating population size is a key deliverable, however, the information required for assessing the efficacy of Recovery Plan actions and underpinning policies that balance the species conservation with public safety also require an assessment of population trend and the ability to robustly assess the impact of any proposed mitigation policies or additional sources of impact. NESP project work will also provide scientifically robust tools and assessment procedures to measure and monitor trends as well as providing improved knowledge of the species’ movement patterns and habitat use.

The project will provide information on the status of white sharks in the context of marine matters of national environmental significance and fulfil obligations under the National Plan of Action (Sharks).

The project will contribute to:

• Priorities identified in the department’s Operational and Strategic Plans by advancing efforts to halt the decline of marine biodiversity;

• Responses regarding the management of human-shark interactions (a subject that has become a significant issue of public interest) by providing the scientific basis for informed, rational and effective policy decisions surrounding the species.

• Inform efficient and effective biodiversity data, information and knowledge systems, through its collaborative approach and integration of existing expertise and data.

• The ability to establish well-informed conservation management strategies for white sharks (and other threatened species) in Australian waters via innovative technologies and analytical techniques.

• State and Commonwealth Government policies directed at managing shark-human interactions (where they relate to white sharks) are based on robust and defensible scientific data on shark population status, habitat use, movements and behaviour – balancing conservation values and public safety.

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