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EARTH SCIENCE | HUMAN DIMENSIONS | ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS | CONSERVATION

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  • Australia is home to a quarter of the world’s cartilaginous fishes (Class Chondrichthyes) with 328 species consisting of 182 sharks, 132 rays, and 14 chimaeras. Australia’s first Shark Action Plan aims to provide a comprehensive and consistent review of the extinction risk of all cartilaginous fishes (hereafter ‘sharks’) occurring in Australian waters, to provide a benchmark from which changes in population and risk can be measured, and to help guide management for their conservation. This Action Plan also serves to raise the profile of their diversity and conservation needs. This volume includes a taxa profile for each of the 328 species occurring in Australian marine and inland waters, including external territories. Each species’ extinction risk was assessed by applying the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria at the national level. Assessments of extinction risk consider all available information on a species’ taxonomy, distribution, population status, habitat and ecology, major threats, use and trade, and conservation measures. The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria utilise a series of thresholds to evaluate extinction risk based on population size reduction, geographic range, population size, or the probability of extinction. Species were assessed against the five Red List criteria; to qualify for one of the three threatened categories (Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable), a species had to meet a quantitative threshold for that category in any of the five criteria. The overall status of sharks in Australia is characterised by a relatively low level of extinction risk and a high level of secure species. Of the 328 species, 12% are threatened (39 species: 22 sharks, 17 rays; no chimaeras are threatened); 10% are Near Threatened (32 species: 18 sharks, 13 rays, 1 chimaera); 70% are Least Concern (231 species: 123 sharks, 95 rays, 13 chimaeras); and, 8% are Data Deficient (26 species: 19 sharks, 7 rays, no chimaeras are Data Deficient). No species are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. Each taxa profile specifies two sets of actions for a species: actions to address knowledge gaps, and actions to maintain, secure, and if necessary, recover the population. To improve the ability to accurately assess the status of species, and ultimately, better conserve and manage them, all species treated in this Action Plan require some knowledge gaps be filled. Knowledge gaps are divided into five themes, each of which improves the information base from which to assess status: taxonomy, distribution, population trend, life history, and connectivity. Conservation actions are provided for each species, regardless of the status assigned them in this Action Plan. While threatened species require immediate action to conserve, manage, and recover their populations, Least Concern species also require action to maintain their secure status. Data Deficient species require action to understand various aspects of their population, but since an assessment as Data Deficient acknowledges the possibility that future research may show that a threatened classification is appropriate, action is also needed to minimise or mitigate threats until such time as more information is available to show that the species is not threatened. Finally, an overarching recommendation is provided for each threatened species. This includes the recommendation that five species be considered for listing on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act), three species be considered for up-listing, and two species be considered for down-listing. An additional 12 threatened species have been identified as priorities for data collection where further data are required to strengthen the evidence-base underlying their status determinations. These species are priorities for research and monitoring to provide data to support inferred or suspected population reductions or continuing declines identified in the Action Plan. The implementation of the recommendations and actions in this Action Plan will require an ongoing and enhanced investment in science and management which will help secure the future of Australia’s sharks, rays, and chimaeras.

  • The population of southern right whales in the Southern Hemisphere has been recovering slowly from near extinction due to its decimation from whaling before its ban in 1935 and cessation in the mid-1970’s. As the species recovers, there is increasing evidence of expansion of aggregation areas, including breeding grounds off the coast of Australia. Consequently, there is a need to update known southern right whale established aggregation areas recognised nationally as Biologically Important Areas (BIAs), as well as the national Southern Right Whale Conservation Management and Recovery Plan, which are both used in decision-making using new evidence. This project collated over 2000 images collected entirely opportunistically by researchers, volunteer citizen scientists, and whale watch operators, and completed matching of individually identifiable whales in photos (i.e., Photo-ID) between 1991 to 2021 in the southwest corner of Australia to evaluate abundance, residency, site fidelity and connectivity in this historically data limited region. The results are reported in the NESP report for Project 1.22 ("A photo-identification study of southern right whales to update aggregation area classification in the southwest of Australia"). A goal of this project was also to upload unique individual southern right whale Photo-IDs into the Australasian Right Whale Photo-Identification Catalogue (ARWPIC; AMMC 2021). The process for these Photo-IDs are briefly described here.

  • This dataset describes the predicted occurrence of juvenile sharks around Northwest Australia, mapped over a 0.01 degree spatial grid. Juvenile sharks were mapped at two taxonomic levels: order by including all juvenile sharks sampled (all juveniles) and species by considering the three most abundant species sampled separately (grey reef (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos), sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus), and whitetip reef (Triaenodon obesus) sharks). The data cover the period 2003-2013 and are derived from an analysis of count data derived from baited remote underwater videos deployed through various sampling programs. Further detail can be found in the following peer-reviewed publication: Oh, BZL, Sequeira, AMM, Meekan, MG, Ruppert, JLW and Meeuwig, JJ (2017), Predicting occurrence of juvenile shark habitat to improve conservation planning. Conservation Biology, 31: 635–645. doi:10.1111/cobi.12868 Below is a full list of species, with contributions to the total counted (%): -------------------------------------------------- Silvertip shark / Carcharhinus albimarginatus – 4.14% Grey reef shark / Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos – 28.06% Bronze whaler / Carcharhinus brachyurus – 0.18% Galapagos shark / Carcharhinus galapagensis – 0.09% Bull shark / Carcharhinus leucas – 0.18% Common-Australian blacktip shark / Carcharhinus limbatus-C.tilstoni – 1.38% Blacktip reef shark / Carcharhinus melanopterus – 1.56% Sandbar shark / Carcharhinus plumbeus – 4.78% Spot-tail shark / Carcharhinus sorrah – 0.18% Tiger shark / Galeocerdo cuvier – 2.39% Sliteye-Sharpnose shark / Loxodon macrorhinus-Rhizoprionodon spp. – 6.35% Lemon shark / Negaprion acutidens – 1.01% Whitetip reef shark / Triaenodon obesus – 18.95% Tawny shark / Nebrius ferrugineus – 0.83% Grey carpetshark / Chiloscyllium punctatum – 1.38% Taselled wobbegong / Eucrossorhinus dasypogon – 0.09% Scalloped hammerhead / Sphyrna lewini – 0.46% Great hammerhead / Sphyrna mokarran – 3.86% Zebra shark / Stegostoma fasciatum – 0.83% Sicklefin houndshark / Hemitriakis falcata – 1.01% Grey gummy shark / Mustelus ravidus – 0.28% Archived BRUVS video files used in this study are the intellectual property of multiple institutions and industry partners and are not published in this record. See credits for further information.

  • This dataset provides predictions of pelagic vertebrate species richness and relative abundance throughout sub-areas of the Oceanic Shoals Australian Marine Park (AMP). Predictive models were constructed from in situ observations made using mid-water stereo-BRUVS (baited remote underwater video systems) deployed at 116 sites within three sampling areas in the western half of the AMP. Sampling took place in September and October 2012 aboard the RV Solander (survey GA0339/SOL5650), as part of an expedition supported by the National Environmental Research Programme's Marine Biodiversity Hub (Theme 3). Expedition partners included the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Geoscience Australia (GA), The Centre for Marine Futures at the University of Western Australia (UWA), and the Northern Territory Museum. Full methodological details can be found in the following peer-reviewed publication: Bouchet, P.J., Letessier, T.B., Caley, M.J., Nichol, S.L., Hemmi, J.M., Meeuwig, J. (2020). Submerged carbonate banks aggregate pelagic megafauna in offshore tropical Australia. Front. Mar. Sci. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00530

  • Latex balloons act like plastic in the ocean: they can travel far from their point of origin on atmospheric and water currents and float at the sea surface where they can be eaten by wildlife that mistake it for food. This study quantified the degradation behaviours of latex balloons in saltwater, freshwater, and industrial compost windrows over 16 weeks. The degradation of latex balloons was quantified with bi-weekly measurements of 1) changes in mass; 2) ultimate tensile strength; and 3) changes in surficial composition of balloons via attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR). This study tested whether degradation differed between two balloon colours (blue and white) and whether degradation differed between balloons whose packaging labels included the word "biodegradable" and balloons whose packaging did not contain the word "biodegradable", and were thus labeled as "traditional" balloons. Thus, these data consist of 1) mass measurements; 2) load-extension data used to determine ultimate tensile strength; and 3) ATR-FTIR spectra of latex balloons across the variables balloon type (biodegradable; traditional), colour (blue; white), and week sampled (0-16 weeks). Also included are measurements of balloons that did not undergo treatments and are either straight out of the package ("new") or balloons that were inflated but did not undergo any treatments ("inflated").