Shark Futures: A report card for Australia's sharks and rays

Project Number:



James Cook University (JCU)

Principal Investigator:

Colin Simpfendorfer

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





With growing concerns for the status of shark and ray populations world-wide, and increasing pressure to ensure Australia’s 320 species are effectively managed and conserved, there is a need for decision makers in government to have access to comprehensive and accurate information. One of the greatest challenges for the sharks and rays is that more than any other taxa they exist across the spectrum of interests from sustainable fisheries resources to threatened species requiring conservation. Further complicating the assessment and management of these species is the fact that many species ranges extend beyond Australia’s territorial waters, where management is implemented differently and populations may be in very different states. Australia’s abilities both in management of its sharks and rays, and the science that underpins it, are recognised as world-leading. Despite this there remain many challenges that face our sharks and rays, but they may not always be those that are faced by other nations in our region. Currently the available information is fragmentary and difficult to access, and most assessment is focused on only a few species targeted by fisheries. The growing information needs of initiatives such as Shark-Plan 2, CITES, CMS, ESD, WTO and EPBC listing struggle to be met because of the lack of a synthesis of information across this group. Locally relevant information on the status of sharks and rays, and the synthesis of knowledge about them, will thus be critical to addressing the challenges that face this group in Australian waters.


1. To synthesise available information on sharks and rays in Australian waters

2. To produce a report card on the status of Australia’s sharks and rays

Shark futures: A report card for Australia’s sharks and rays

Final Report
Author(s):Colin Simpfendorfer, Andrew Chin, Cassandra Rigby, Samantha Sherman, William White
Date Published:March 2019
In response to increasing concerns for the status of shark and ray populations world-wide and increasing pressure to ensure Australia’s shark and ray species are effectively managed and conserved, this project synthesised the scattered information, assessed individual species’ status and provided a clear and concise overview of the state of Australia’s shark and rays. Project staff from the Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture collected available data from peer-reviewed literature, government reports, observer programs and fellow scientists to produce comprehensive databases on species and management measures with input from CSIRO on the most recent taxonomy of this diverse group. A workshop of experts updated the status of more than 200 Australian sharks and rays to generate 194 unique individual species summaries that define their most up-to-date status within the context of Australian fisheries. A Report Card overview indicates that the majority of species are sustainable and in a healthy state; and while Australia’s approach to managing its shark stocks has to date been very good, this needs to be maintained and supported by ongoing research and monitoring. The significant resources generated by the project are available on a website created specifically to support and house the information, the Australian Shark Information System. Keywords Sharks, rays, fisheries, management, status

A Report Card for Australia’s Sharks - Summary

Author(s):Colin Simpfendorfer, Andrew Chin, Peter Kyne, Cassandra Rigby, Samantha Sherman, William White
Date Published:March 2019
This is a summary report from the final report for the project summarising the findings from 194 species assessments.
The Australian Shark Report Card presents a systematic assessment of the status of all of Australia’s sharks, as well as rays with shark-like bodies (sawfishes, wedgefishes, guitarfishes, giant guitarfish, and banjo rays; also referred to as shark-like rays). Importantly, the Report Card covers all Australian sharks, the majority of which are probably unknown to most Australians. In doing so, the Report Card provides a scientifically robust account of what is happening to Australia’s shark resources, identifying the species and stocks that are currently healthy and likely to be healthy into the future, and those species that are in decline and need further management intervention and conservation.
Keywords: Sharks, rays, fisheries, management, status