8 Sept 2020


WWF-Australia has welcomed Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s decision to ban the export of shark fins and other seafood products from a Queensland fishery until the Queensland Government delivers long-needed sustainable fishing reforms.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has written to the Queensland Government saying she will revoke the export permit for the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (ECIFFF) using her powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The ban, which will come into force on 30 September, cancels fishing for export in the fishery which extends from the NSW border along the Great Barrier Reef to the top of Cape York. Exports include fins from sharks caught within the Reef, mullet roe, and black jewfish bladders for use in the cosmetics industry.

The move comes after the Queensland Government failed to meet the sustainability conditions for the fishery - where gill nets are used to target marine species, and often result in the entanglement of threatened marine wildlife.

WWF-Australia’s Head of Oceans, Richard Leck welcomed the ban, saying unsustainable practices in the fishery had led to the deaths of thousands of threatened species including sawfish, dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles.

“This decision has been a long time coming. The Queensland Government has failed to deliver fisheries reforms that are desperately needed to protect the delicate health of the Great Barrier Reef and the precious marine creatures that call it home,” said Mr Leck.

“Gill nets are indiscriminate killers that have no place in these pristine waters. It’s time to remove this outdated and unsustainable fishing practice from areas that are important refuges for dugongs, turtles and other marine wildlife.”

With the help of its supporters, WWF-Australia has purchased and retired at least three commercial gill nets in Far North Queensland to protect threatened marine species. Mr Leck said he hoped the loss of the export permit would encourage the Queensland Government to deliver sustainable fishing reforms to secure a long-term solution.

“We’d like to see the Queensland Government go a step further and establish a Net-Free North through a ban on gill nets between Cooktown and the Torres Strait,” he said.

“The northern Great Barrier Reef is one of last global strongholds for dugongs and a vital refuge for turtles, sharks, dolphins, sawfish and many other amazing species whose numbers are dwindling in other parts of Australia. Without urgent action, these species will be pushed to the brink by commercial gill net fishing.”

Mr Leck said the decision also showed why the EPBC Act, which is undergoing a once-in-a-decade review, needs to be strengthened and properly enforced.

“This decision is great news for our marine life, but it also shows why we're strongly opposed to the Australian Government’s plans to amend the EPBC Act and hand approval powers to the states without an independent regulator to ensure enforcement,” he said.

“Delegating enforcement powers to states, who are often the proponents of threatening developments and activities, would be a disaster in the making for our marine wildlife."

“It’s time Australia had well-resourced, reliable and responsive oversight of environmental protection.”