Assessment of Eligibility for Threatened Species Listing
The status of three species of hammerhead sharks has been considered by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee for possible listing as threatened under Part 13 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). These are:
- scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini)
- great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
- smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena).
The scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) was listed in the Conservation Dependent category of the EPBC Act in 2018. In 2019, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee undertook a review of the listing’s implementation. The Committee proposed that scalloped hammerhead shark be added to the Finalised Priority Assessment List, which the minister agreed to in 2020.
The scalloped hammerhead shark remains under assessment by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee and their advice for listing in the Endangered or Conservation Dependent category will be considered by the minister when making the listing decision. On 15 June 2023 the minister extended the timeframe for consideration of the listing assessment until 29 February 2024 to allow the Committee to review new information on the species’ conservation status in Queensland and implementation of publicly announced fisheries reforms, and to provide updated advice.
Non-Detriment Findings for CITES listed hammerhead sharks
All species in the hammerhead (Sphyrnidae) family were listed on Appendix II to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on 23 February 2023. Scalloped, great and smooth hammerhead were previously listed on 14 September 2014.
To enable the export of CITES listed species, Australia must ensure that export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. This is done through an assessment known as a ’non-detriment finding’.
A non-detriment finding assessment was undertaken by the Australian CITES Scientific Authority for the three species of hammerhead listed in September 2014. The assessment found that Australian harvest and export levels for these hammerhead shark species would not be detrimental to the survival of the species provided harvest levels from Australian fisheries remained within the following limits:
- scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) 200 tonnes per year
- great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) 100 tonnes per year
- smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena) 70 tonnes per year.
The Australian CITES Scientific Authority also made several recommendations to state and Northern Territory fisheries management agencies, including ensuring that information is collected on the commercial harvest of hammerhead species and catches are limited to ensure that national quotas for these species are not exceeded.
Information on the 2014 Non-Detriment Finding assessment is available on the Non-detriment finding for five CITES Appendix II shark species page and includes a copy of the assessment, the scientific information that formed the basis of the assessment and advice on CITES Appendix II shark listings.
Following Appendix II listing of the entire Sphyrnidae family in February 2023, the Australian CITES Scientific Authority contracted independent expert advice to inform updated non-detriment findings for scalloped, great and smooth hammerhead shark, and winghead shark (Eusphyra blochii, which is part of the Sphyrnidae family). Due to the extension to the timeframe for consideration of the listing assessment for scalloped hammerhead shark, the non-detriment finding for this species has not been updated and the 2014 finding remains in place.
Positive non-detriment findings were made for great and smooth hammerhead shark and winghead shark provided that catches (including discards) remain at or below current levels and that there are no significant increases in fishing effort.
These updated non-detriment findings will be used to underpin Wildlife Trade Operation approvals in fisheries that take the listed species. Due to the requirement to update Wildlife Trade Operation approvals, the non-detriment findings were open for public comment from 11 October 2023 to 10 November 2023 and will be made permanently available on the department’s website in late 2023.
2017 Review of Non-Detriment Findings for hammerhead sharks
The 2014 Non-Detriment Finding on scalloped, great and smooth hammerheads was due to be reviewed after three years. In 2017 the Department undertook an analysis of relevant available information on these species and decided that the precautionary harvest levels set in the 2014 Non-Detriment Finding would remain in place until additional information becomes available.
Analysis of data on Hammerhead abundance, distribution and harvest in Australian fisheries since implementation of the 2014 hammerhead shark non-detriment finding (PDF - 408.27 KB)
Analysis of data on Hammerhead abundance, distribution and harvest in Australian fisheries since implementation of the 2014 hammerhead shark non-detriment finding (DOCX - 116.62 KB)
Commercial permit requirements for CITES listed hammerhead sharks
CITES permits are required under national environmental law to internationally export or import any part or derivative (e.g. fillets, fins) for the three listed hammerhead shark species.
Fisheries that interact with hammerhead sharks
Hammerhead sharks are caught or taken incidentally in some Australian commercial fisheries when fishing for other species. The Northern Territory Offshore Net and Line Fishery, Queensland’s East Coast and Gulf of Carpentaria Inshore Fin Fish Fisheries, the Western Australian Temperate Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Fisheries and the South Australian Marine Scalefish Fishery account for most of the Australian hammerhead catch. Great and scalloped hammerheads are protected in New South Wales and must be returned to the water if caught.
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
Migratory species listed under international agreements to which Australia is a Party are protected under the Australian Government's EPBC Act. Australia is party to a number of international conventions and agreements to protect many migratory species.
Scalloped and great hammerhead sharks were included on Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in 2014. Appendix II lists migratory species that are not endangered, but have an unfavourable conservation status and which would benefit from international cooperation. Australia submitted a reservation to their inclusion in 2015 because listing them as migratory species under the EPBC Act would have had unintended consequences. Without the reservation, recreational fishers who accidentally caught any of these sharks, even when fishing in accordance with their state recreational fishing permits, could be fined up to $170,000 and face two years in jail. Entering the reservation allows the domestic management arrangements currently in place for these species to continue.
Notwithstanding the reservation on the listing of the species on the CMS, Australia is continuing to fulfil the requirements of an Appendix II listing for these species through participation in, and support for, the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MoU). Signatories to this Sharks MoU met in Costa Rica in 2016 and included the above hammerhead species on its Annex to facilitate cooperation and information sharing. Australia supported their inclusion on the Sharks MoU annex.
Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks
The Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MoU) was developed under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in 2011. The Sharks MoU is a non-binding instrument to which Australia is a signatory. Its primary goal is to encourage a cooperative multinational approach to research and management of the global populations of migratory sharks. The Sharks MoU currently lists 29 species of sharks and rays from around the world’s oceans, including 21 species from Australian waters. A Conservation Plan and a work programme have been agreed to by the Sharks MoU. The Conservation Plan identifies broad objectives for the conservation and management of species listed under the Sharks MoU.