Sunday, January 07, 2007

Fishermen to be involved in research on sharks

NETS 4km long will be put in place at 200 sites along the southern coast of Australia as part of the biggest survey of shark numbers ever undertaken.

Argentine researcher Matias Braccini will work with commercial fishermen to set the nets at least 500m from shore in an effort to learn more about the movements of sharks, their habitat and breeding patterns.

The fishermen will be allowed to keep the sharks that comply with their quota, giving them an incentive to help with the study, which was prompted by fears stocks have been badly depleted.
"One of the main objectives is looking at the school shark, and one of the problems is it has been heavily reduced," Dr Braccini said. "There was this belief in the past that the stocks were endless."
The fishermen will count all sharks caught in the nets, which will be put in place at sites from the Western Australia-South Australia border to eastern Bass Strait, and report their findings back to Dr Braccini.

The study is being part-funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

Dr Braccini, who arrived in Australia in 2002 to study for a PhD at Adelaide University, is hoping to begin travelling with commercial boats in coming weeks. It is expected to take up to 18 months to compile the data.

He hopes the study will shed light on the extent of over-fishing.

"In shark fisheries in the world there is no real information in abundance," he said.

Dr Braccini said the shark fishing industry was not well managed before the introduction of quotas and legislation banning the killing of species such as the great white.

"The school sharks were not managed early in the past century," he said, adding that when studies were conducted in the 1970s and 80s, researchers found the average shark size had been greatly reduced.

Australia's commitment to shark research attracted Dr Braccini to the country.

"I started working on sharks in 1999, and when I started doing research I started reading newspapers," he said. One of the worldwide researchers on sharks was his present boss, Terry Walker, based in Victoria.

Dr Braccini contacted universities around Australia, and Adelaide University allowed him to work in Victoria at the Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute, where he is supervised by Dr Walker.


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