Sandbar Shark

Carcharhinus plumbeus

  • Matias Braccini (Department of Fisheries, Western Australia)
  • Grant Johnson (Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Northern Territory)
  • Ian Jacobsen (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Vic Peddemors (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Queensland Eastern Australia ECIFFF Undefined Catch
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
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Stock Structure

Sandbar Shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) occurs primarily off both the east and west coasts of Australia, from approximately latitude 17–32°S off the east coast, and latitude 13–36°S off the west coast1,2. The species is also encountered off the northern Australian coast, although in much lower numbers. In addition to genetic analysis that suggests limited gene flow between eastern and western Sandbar Shark stocks3, there are limited recorded catches in the Gulf of Carpentaria and southern Australia. Thus, the species is considered to be represented by separate Eastern and Western biological stocks in Australian waters.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Western Australian and Eastern Australian.

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Stock Status

Eastern Australia

In New South Wales, whaler sharks (Carcharhinus spp.), including Sandbar Shark (C. plumbeus), have historically not been adequately identified and reported at a species level in commercial catch data. However, observer data indicate that Sandbar Shark represents the largest single-species component of catches in the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery (New South Wales), at 35 per cent of the overall shark catch between 2008 and 20099. Since the introduction of new logbooks in 2009, fishers are required to report all landed sharks to species level. However, insufficient information is available to determine status for any of the whaler shark species in New South Wales, including Sandbar Shark10. The net fishery of the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (Queensland) contributes minimal quantities (less than 1 t per year) to the overall eastern Australian harvest of Sandbar Shark. There is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Eastern Australian biological stock is classified as an undefined stock.

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Sandbar Shark biology2,11,12

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Sandbar Shark 30–40 years; 1 660 mm FL; 2 150 mm TL Females: 16.2 years; 1 360 mm FL Males: 13.8 years; 1 270 mm FL 
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Sandbar Shark

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Fishing methods
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method Queensland
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Possession restrictions
Processing restrictions
Spatial closures
Total allowable catch
Vessel restrictions
Gear restrictions
Gear restrictions
Possession limit
Active vessels
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)
Commercial 500.00kg in ECIFFF
Indigenous Unknown but likely to be negligible
Recreational Unknown but likely to be negligible
East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery (QLD)

a Queensland – Indigenous Under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers in Queensland are able to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and possession limits, and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations may be applied for through permits.
b New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) The Aboriginal Fishing Interim Access Arrangement - allows an Indigenous fisher in New South Wales to take in excess of a recreational bag limit in certain circumstances, for example, if they are doing so to provide fish to other community members who cannot harvest themselves.
c New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods) The Aboriginal cultural fishing authority is the authority that Indigenous persons can apply to take catches outside the recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1)(c1), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority.
d Indigenous (management methods) Subject to the defence that applies under Section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), and the exemption from a requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence, the non-commercial take by indigenous fishers is covered by the same arrangements as that for recreational fishing.e Recreational and Indigenous (catch) Given the offshore distribution of Sandbar Shark, near-shore catches are likely to be negligible.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Sandbar Shark - note confidential catch not shown

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • Recent analysis of potential changes in ecosystem structure of finfish in the South and West Coast Bioregions of Western Australia14 found no evidence of any systematic change in species diversity or richness, or trophic index, indicating that this fishery is not having a material impact on the food chain or trophic structure.
  • The demersal gillnets used to catch Sandbar Shark in Western Australia are deployed infrequently over a small proportion of the target fisheries’ operational area. Under normal circumstances, the physical impact of the gear on the bottom is minimal3.
  • Demersal gillnets are known to interact with a number of threatened and protected species in areas where they are used to catch Sandbar Shark. However, such interactions occur at a very low frequency, and have been assessed as posing low to negligible risks to these populations4.
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Environmental effects on Sandbar Shark

  • Climate change and climate variability have the potential to impact fish stocks in a range of ways, including influencing their geographic distribution (for example, latitudinal shifts in distribution). However, the impact of environmental changes on Sandbar Shark stocks is unknown.
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  1. 1 Last, PR and Stevens, JD 2009, Sharks and rays of Australia, 2nd edn, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
  2. 2 McAuley, RB, Simpfendorfer, CA, Hyndes, GA and Lenanton, RCJ 2007, Distribution and reproductive biology of the Sandbar Shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, (Nardo, 1827) in Western Australian waters, Marine and Freshwater Research, 58: 116–126.
  3. 3 Portnoy, DS, McDowell, JR, Heist, EJ, Musick, JA and Graves, JE 2010, World phylogeography and male-mediated gene flow in the Sandbar Shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, Molecular Ecology, 19: 1994–2010.
  4. 4 McAuley, R, Braccini, M, Newman, SJ and O’Malley, J 2015, Temperate Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline Fisheries Status Report, in WJ Fletcher and K Santoro (eds), Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of Western Australia 2014/15, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth, 261–272.
  5. 5 McAuley, R and Rowland, F 2012, Northern Shark Fisheries status report, in WJ Fletcher and K Santoro (eds), Status reports of the fisheries and aquatic resources of Western Australia 2011/12, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth, 222–227.
  6. 6 Marshall L, Giles, J and Johnson, GJ 2016, Catch composition of a traditional Indonesian shark fishery operating in the MOU Box, northwestern Australia: Results of shark fin identification from Operation Snapshot (May 2015), Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  7. 7 McAuley, R, Lenanton, R, Chidlow, J, Allison, R and Heist, E 2005, Biology and stock assessment of the Thickskin (Sandbar) Shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, in Western Australia and further refinement of the Dusky Shark, Carcharhinus obscurus, stock assessment, final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, project 2000/134, Fisheries research report 151, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.
  8. 8 McAuley, RB, Simpfendorfer, CA and Hall, NG 2007, A method for evaluating the impacts of fishing mortality and stochastic influences on the demography of two long-lived shark stocks, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 64: 1710–1722.
  9. 9 Macbeth, WG, Geraghty, PT, Peddemors, VM and Gray, CA 2009, Observer-based study of targeted commercial fishing for large shark species in waters off northern New South Wales, Fisheries final report series 114, Industry and Investment New South Wales, Cronulla.
  10. 10 Rowling, KA, Hegarty, A and Ives, M 2010, Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2008/09, Industry and Investment New South Wales, Cronulla.
  11. 11 Geraghty PT, Macbeth, WG, Harry, AV, Bell, JE, Yerman, MN and Williamson, JE 2013, Age and growth parameters for three heavily exploited shark species off temperate eastern Australia, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 71: 559–573.
  12. 12 McAuley, RB, Simpfendorfer, CA, Hyndes, GA, Allison, RR, Chidlow, JA, Newman, SJ and Lenanton, RCJ 2006, Validated age and growth of the sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus (Nardo, 1827) in the waters off Western Australia, Environmental Biology of Fishes, 77: 385–400.
  13. 13 Ryan, KL, Wise, BS, Hall, NG, Pollock, KH, Sulin, EH and Gaughan, DJ 2013, An integrated system to survey boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2011/12, Fisheries research report 249, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.
  14. 14 Hall, NG and Wise, BS 2010, Development of an ecosystem approach to the monitoring and management of Western Australian fisheries, Fisheries research report 215, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.

Archived reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.