By Dr Chris Brown
Our new research has revealed a 71% decline in tiger sharks across Queensland’s coastline.
The decline has been particularly rapid in southern regions which is unusual. Tiger sharks are top predators that have few natural enemies, so the cause of the decline is likely overfishing.
The decline is surprising, because tiger sharks are one of the most resilient large shark species. Mothers can birth up to 70 pups every three years, which means the population should be resilient to moderate levels of fishing.
Past studies have implicated multiple types of fishing as causes of tiger shark death. They are caught by commercial fisheries both internationally and in Australian waters, recreational fishing, and the Queensland Shark Control Program.
Australia has more imperilled native shark species than almost any other nation with some of the strictest regulations for shark, protection including a ban on shark finning. The decline in tiger sharks, which are a very resilient species, suggests that Australia is not doing enough to protect its unique shark fauna.
We were also surprised to learn the decline has been stronger in southern Queensland, when compared to tropical waters.
Tiger sharks are a tropical species and are expected to move further south with long-term warming of the East Coast of Australia.
Recent studies that followed tiger sharks with satellite trackers have identified that the East Coast of Australia is a risk hotspot for tiger sharks and commercial long-line fisheries.
The shark control program reports catching 9547 tiger sharks since 1984. Catches in commercial and recreational fisheries are not comprehensively reported.
The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.
The study was conducted by researchers at Griffith University and The University of Queensland. The study was supported by funding from the Australian Research Council.