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Australia Opts Out of Shark Protection

The Australian government has announced it will opt out of protecting five shark species

This week it said it was  submitting a 'reservation' to ensure a recent international listing granting protection status to three species of thresher shark and two species of hammerhead does not take effect in Australian waters.

Humane Society International has described the move as an 'unprecedented act of domestic and international environmental vandalism'.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals gave new protection status to 31 migratory species at a conference in November. Individual countries can opt out of the protection by registering qwhat ic called a 'reservation'.

The listings were agreed to by consensus, with Australia among the countries present for the talks.

But the government has had a change of heart and is seeking to opt out of co-operating with other countries to protect five of the shark species, arguing that Australia already has sufficient protections in place.

Alexia Wellbelove, senior program manager at Humane Society International, said the Australian government was responding to complaints from recreational fishermen who catch and release the sharks, and commercial fishers who can accidentally trap them while hunting for other fish.

If the five shark species were given international protection status, Australian laws would kick in, making it an offence to kill, injure, take or move the species in Australian waters.

The listings were due to take effect next month.

'We just think it's really unbelievably disappointing because Australia has always led the way on shark conservation and this is really a step backward,' Ms Wellbelove said.

'It's a very sad day for protection of the marine environment if we take the easy road and opt of these things, rather than taking steps to protect our domestic waters.'

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