Funding Cycle: 
National Environmental Science Program

Research to support the conservation and recovery of Australia’s threatened and migratory marine species is being applied to a variety of shark species, handfish, sea snakes, and Southern Right Whales.

Genetic and statistical analyses have been applied to assess population status and supporting monitoring programs for Northern River Sharks in northern Australia, White Sharks in southern Australia, and Grey Nurse Sharks in eastern Australia. The adult population size of Northern River Sharks has been shown to be small with significant population structuring. Population estimates for both the eastern and western populations of White Sharks have provided the first estimate of national population size.  

Data on biology, ecology and interactions with fisheries have been collated to define the state of knowledge on hammerhead sharks. The information has supported conceptual models of shark population structure to refine the status of Australian hammerhead shark populations and help to prioritise future research.

Handfish are being conserved through various direct conservation actions guided by research. Extensive work has been undertaken on artificial spawning habitats, eco-friendly moorings, genetic and capture mark recapture studies, captive breeding, and outreach.

The status of all 328 sharks, rays and chimaeras occurring in Australian waters has been reviewed which will result in the publication of Australia’s first Shark Action Plan. This action plan capitalised on a national workshop to determine research priorities for sharks.

A bioregion-wide approach is being taken to model of distribution of a variety of threatened and migratory species across northern Australia, encompassing sharks and sawfishes, shorebirds, marine turtles, and marine mammals.

A long-term aerial survey of right whales off southern Australia is charting their recovery and providing a basis for monitoring the effects of environmental change. Identifying photographs add clues to how the whales live and breed. In the longer-term, the survey results will help scientists evaluate the effects of changes occurring in the oceans around Antarctica.

Data on the distribution and fisheries interactions with five endemic species of sea snakes in Western Australia has been used to assess their status. This information has been used to model distributions, assess bycatch risk, and understand population trends of these rare species. Distribution modelling has uncovered new localities for one Endangered and two Critically Endangered species of sea snake in Western Australia.