Saturday, 23 March, 2019

5500 great white sharks lurk off Australia's east coast

5500 great white sharks lurk off Australia's east coast 5500 great white sharks lurk off Australia's east coast
Bennie Garza | 09 February, 2018, 09:17

There are two white shark populations in Australia: the eastern population ranging from the southernmost point of the mainland in Victoria to the Great Barrier Reef and across to New Zealand and the south-western population following the coast west from the southernmost point all the way to northern Western Australia (WA).

Meanwhile, The Australian described "an explosion in adult great white shark numbers off the west coast", despite the main finding of the study being that shark numbers have been pretty stable, actually.

In the waters off south-west Australia - an area stretching from western Victoria to north-western Western Australia - there are an estimated 1460 great whites.

Until now, it was difficult to gather information about adult great white sharks because they were hard to sample.

"The most we can say at present is that the current estimates of abundance and key demographic parameters (survival, fecundity etc) are more consistent with slight current declines or zero population rate of change", the report said.

But WA Fisheries minister Dave Kelly chose to focus on a different part of the study.

After the release of the initial numbers, Environment Minister John Frydenberg called for "more rigorous and proactive measures to protect its citizens from shark attacks".

The Labor Government does not want to use drum lines.

The drumline strategy prompted protest against former Premier Colin Barnett.

Due to the elusive nature of the species, the Organisation for Industrial and Scientific Research of the Commonwealth of Australia (CSIRO) based its report on a combination of statistical and genetic methods without having to physically catch or see a shark, reports Efe news.

Instead, they located the tell-tale marks of the parents in the DNA collected from juveniles.

From these 175 samples, 27 were found to be half-sibling pairs, meaning they shared one parent.

In a world-first genetic analysis, the CSIRO has been has been able to provide an accurate picture into the size of Australia's great white population.

But if juvenile sharks are counted, the researchers estimate the east coast population could be 5460, or as high as 12,800.

"The chances of any two juveniles in a population sharing a parent depends on how many adults are around to share the job of reproduction", said Richard Hillary, lead author of the study.

"This is crucial to developing effective policy outcomes that balance the sometimes conflicting aims of conservation initiatives and human-shark interaction risk management".


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