WWF Australia bought and retired a $100,000 shark fishing licence on the Great Barrier Reef last month. They called for donations to cover the cost and so much was donated — from more than 30 countries — that they are now looking to purchase a second licence.
WWF-Australia conservation director Gilly Llewellyn said: “People see our idea as a practical way to save sharks and prevent dugongs, turtles and dolphins being killed as bycatch.”
WWF Australia will now try to raise $200,000 to purchase and retire a second N4 licence that caught more than 280,000 kg of shark between 1999 and 2006.
“By preventing both licences from returning to shark fishing we can save about 20,000 sharks each year, including endangered hammerheads,” she said.
“Dead dugongs, dolphins and turtles found with net marks indicate these species are dying as bycatch at a time when their populations are under pressure.
Asked whether the Queensland Government could simply issue more N4 licences, she said: “Such a move is extremely unlikely. Queensland has had a 'limited entry' policy since the mid-90s which restricts the allocation of new fishing licences.”
The shark catch on the Reef increased from 222 tonnes in 2014 to 402 tonnes in 2015, which equates to about 100,000 sharks. A healthy Reef needs its apex predator, sharks, as well as dugongs, dolphins and turtles.
There are five N4 licences in Queensland entitling operators to target sharks and grey mackerel on nets up to 1.2 km long.