The need for research to improve the management of northern shark fisheries is clearly recognised at State/Territory, national (NAFM) and international (Traffic Oceania, FAO) levels. The sustainability of shark species is also a priority issue with stakeholders. The 1998, 1999 and 2000 Northern Australia Fisheries Management (NAFM) Workshop (QLD, NT, WA and the Commonwealth) identified research into elasmobranches as high priority. The Northern Shark Stock Assessment Review workshop (QLD, NT, WA and the Commonwealth), Broome 2000, identified the lack of species identification in the catch of NT and Qld as a major concern, as well as the lack of uniformity in reporting shark catch by the various logbook programs. The national Shark Advisory Group in November 2000 identified:
- a general lack of species identification and quantification of shark taken in non-target shark fisheries;
- a lack of consistent and accurate data collection and reporting of shark catches across all fisheries and jurisdictions;
- need for a minimum standard level of data collection and shark reporting across all fisheries and jurisdictions;
- shark finning (this activity is currently banned in the tuna fisheries and in the States of NSW, Victoria and WA);
as significant issues in regard to the take of shark in Australian waters.
From a national and regional perspective the need for the proposed study has been prioritised by the above forums and by their constituent peak stakeholder groups. The proposal directly addresses the R&D Priorities of QFIRAC, (1.2 Develop and improve the quality of catch/effort data collection systems, 1.3 Undertake stock assessments of fisheries resources, 2.2 Quantify the unintentional effects of fishing on fish stocks) and those of FRDC (Natural resource sustainability: Effects of fishing activities on fish and their ecosystems). The current proposal is for the first stage of a more comprehensive study and will focus on workshopping the issues with stakeholders in each state and short pilot studies in WA, NT and Qld to test methods and gain critical preliminary data.