We’re investigating the ecology, bio-geography and taxonomy of sharks and rays, and their population dynamics, to support fisheries, conservation and biodiversity management in Australia and neighbouring nations.

The challenge

Understanding shark populations

A group of bull sharks.

Australia is home to more than a quarter of the world's Chondrichthyan fauna (sharks and rays).

Many species are vulnerable to mortality above natural levels, either through harvesting by commercial or recreational fishing, or through other sources such as habitat degradation or shark control activities.

We need to better understand shark populations, their ecology and habitats, so that the threats to sharks can be identified and managed.

Our response

Managing threats to sharks

In 2013, we were part of a global study that analysed the conservation status of more than a thousand shark and ray species, and found that a quarter of them were under threat of extinction.

The study called for species assessments with better population estimates that could be linked with effective management practices.

We’re developing new techniques in areas including taxonomy and biogeography, tagging and tracking, population estimates and monitoring and management approaches.

Their application includes white sharks and reef sharks, deep-water sharks in the Great Australian Bight, the sharks of Australia's northern rivers including the critically endangered speartooth shark, as well as commercial shark fisheries.

A Port Jackson shark.

Naming new species of sharks and rays

Our Australian National Fish Collection is internationally recognised for its Indo-Pacific sharks and rays and acts as a focal point for national and international collaboration.

Taxonomic research allied with the collection has named and described more than 100 new species of sharks and rays in Australian waters, and catalogued the sharks and rays of Indonesia and Borneo.

We’re contributing to international processes including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened species.

Man leans over boat tagging shark in net

Tagging sharks like this white shark allows us to track their individual journeys.  ©Justin Gilligan

Our research also supports decisions about shark conservation required under the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and to shark management by state and local government agencies.

Estimating white shark populations

We've led white shark research in Australia since the early 1990s, tracking individual journeys, identifying habitats and populations, and providing knowledge and advice to management agencies.

Population estimates and trends are needed to assess the effectiveness of Australia’s national white shark recovery plan, the impact of fishing, and policies such as shark control programs.

 We’re working closely with local, state and federal authorities, research agencies, and other Australian and international white shark tagging and research initiatives.

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