Group Buys Fishing Net So Others Can't, Will Save Up To 10,000 Sharks

A jaw-dropping move.
Hammerhead shark.
Hammerhead shark.

The World Wildlife Fund is biting back.

On July 13, WWF-Australia bought a $100,000 shark-fishing license on the Great Barrier Reef for a 3,937-foot net meant to trap sharks. WWF-Australia will not actually use the net, but the purchase will prevent up to 10,000 sharks a year from being caught.

The license, which was put up for sale by a pervious owner, is for one of five large fishing nets that “hang like a curtain” on the reef, trapping sharks, sea turtles, dugongs and dolphins as they travel along the highways. Once tangled in these nets, these marine creatures can drown in minutes. The license can be used to fish for other species as well.

A dugong.
A dugong.

The conservation group asked for donations through its site to fund the purchase of the license, and was so successful, that it is now asking for money to buy a second license to save even more threatened marine lives — like the hammerhead shark. It is a species whose numbers have crashed in Queensland by possibly 80 percent, according to WWF-Australia’s conservation director, Gilly Llewellyn.

“These enormous nets kill tens of thousands of juvenile sharks each year, including hammerheads which are listed internationally as endangered,” Llewellyn said in a statement.

Great hammerhead shark.
Great hammerhead shark.

“Hammerhead sharks are literally getting hammered out there,” Llewellyn, told ABC.

A 2013 study showed that taking sharks from coral reefs upsets the ecosystem, which makes it harder for reefs to recuperate.

“After bleaching, algae spreads,” Llewellyn said on WWF-Australia’s website. “Researchers found that where sharks were removed by overfishing, smaller predators like snapper became more abundant. These snapper kill the algae-eating fish and the algae then overwhelms young coral.”

A tourist snorkels above coral in the lagoon located on Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
A tourist snorkels above coral in the lagoon located on Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

WWF-Australia also says its usual move was done in response to Queensland Government figures that showed the commercial shark catch on the Great Barrier Reef spiked from 244 tons in 2014 to almost double the year after.

Some wonder, however, if this move will actually make a difference, since the license that WWF-Australia bought hasn’t been used since 2004. Though, the group says that from 1993 to 2004, it was used to catch 551 tons of shark.

Llewellyn tells ABC that the move was preventative:

“Someone could buy it tomorrow and go fishing with it in a couple of months’ time and it could be catching sharks again.”



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