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 user 2006-10-10 at 11:09:00 am Views: 36
  • #16578

    Sharks swim into political waters
    are known affectionately as the “Labradors of the ocean”, but grey
    nurse sharks are facing a fight for survival in Australia.It is
    estimated there are fewer than 500 of these docile creatures left in
    Australian waters. Most live off the east coast.Despite its fearsome
    appearance, the grey nurse ( Carcharias taurus ) is not a
    man-eater.Environmentalists have said their numbers continue to fall
    despite the grey nurse shark being a protected species, which it has
    been since 1984.Conservationists and scientists have held what they
    have described as “crisis talks” in Sydney.

    Safe zones
    are now threatening legal action to force the country’s political
    leaders to do more.”The grey nurse shark situation is critical,” warned
    Ian Cohen, a Green member of the New South Wales state
    parliament.”We’re likely to see the demise of this species on the east
    coast of Australia in the next 10 to 15 years. It is really a desperate
    situation when we look at the continued threat through both
    recreational and professional fishing practices,” he told the BBC.Mr
    Cohen accuses the New South Wales state government of caring more about
    retaining power than the environment.”Leading up to an election next
    year [the government] has an eye on the voting power of the
    recreational fishing lobby,” he said.There are 16 key grey nurse shark
    habitats dotted along the coast of New South Wales, from the tourist
    haven at Byron Bay south to the rugged beauty of Montague
    Island.Wildlife campaigners want the authorities to establish a
    1.5km-wide “sanctuary zone” around these critical aggregation sites.
    They are demanding a complete ban on fishing, arguing that there would
    be plenty of alternative areas to satisfy fishermen and women.

    Healthy waters
    grey nurse is listed as an endangered species under Australian
    law.Conservationists have insisted that the state and federal
    governments have failed to fulfil their legal obligations.Nicola
    Beynon, from Humane Society International, said protecting sensitive
    habitats could not happen soon enough: “This is the time when we have a
    chance of turning around the specie’s fortunes on the east coast and if
    we don’t seize it now then extinction’s going to be inevitable.”It’s
    not just a case of saving it for its own sake; we need to save sharks
    for the role that they play in keeping the oceans healthy. In effect,
    protecting the grey nurse shark is also beneficial to the fishing
    industry because it keeps the ocean that they depend on healthy and
    productive.”if environmentalists were hoping for a positive response
    from the New South Wales government they have been disappointed.

    ‘Dramatic’ impact
    State Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, accused his
    critics of scare-mongering.”I think that they’re talking a lot of
    nonsense and exaggerating the situation rather dramatically,” he told
    Australian radio,The minister said he was considering introducing shark
    sanctuaries at five grey nurse sites and that he was not fazed by the
    threat of legal action.”Our view is we have the measures in place and
    it would be a complete waste of money by the green groups to be running
    off to the courts,” he said.”We are spending a lot of money on the
    breeding programme. If we’re able to complete this successfully, it
    will have a dramatic impact on the survival of the shark, not only in
    Australia but overseas.”Australia’s federal government also said it was
    doing all it could to protect this relatively placid and ragged-tooth