Conservation of the Critically Endangered Eastern Australian Population of the Grey Nurse Shark

paper8Published online on 09. November 2013

Conservation of the Critically Endangered Eastern Australian Population of the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) Through Cross-Jurisdictional Management of a Network of Marine-Protected Areas

Tim P. Lynch, Robert Harcourt, Graham Edgar, Neville Barrett


Between 2001 and 2009, 26 marine-protected areas (MPA) were established on the east Australian seaboard, at least in part, to manage human interactions with a critically endangered population of grey nurse shark, Carcharias taurus. This network is spread across six MPA systems and includes all 19 sites outlined in the National Recovery Plan for C. taurus, though five sites remain open to some forms of fishing. The reserve network has complex cross-jurisdictional management, as the sharks occur in waters controlled by the Australian states of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, as well as by the Commonwealth (Federal) government. Jurisdiction is further complicated by fisheries and conservation departments both engaging in management activities within each state. This has resulted in protected area types that include IUCN category II equivalent zones in NSW, Queensland, and Commonwealth marine parks that either overlay or complement another large scaled network of protected sites called critical habitats. Across the network, seven and eight rule permutations for diving and fishing, respectively, are applied to this population of sharks. Besides sites identified by the recovery plan, additional sites have been protected as part of the general development of MPA networks. A case study at one of these sites, which historically was known to be occupied by C. taurus but had been abandoned, appears to shows re-establishment of an aggregation of juvenile and sub-adult sharks. Concurrent with the re-establishment of the aggregation, a local dive operator increased seasonal dive visitation rates at the site fourfold. As a precautionary measure, protection of abandoned sites, which includes nursery and gestating female habitats are options that may assist recovery of the east coast population of C. taurus.

Environmental Management, DOI 10.1007/s00267-013-0174-x



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