Australia’s sharks, rays and chimaeras
Australia’s waters contain a rich and diverse range of chondrichthyan fishes – sharks, rays and chimaeras – at last count 322 species and increasing thanks to new scientific studies. Of these, 182 are sharks, 125 are rays and the remaining 15 are chimaeras (ghost sharks). These species account for more than a quarter of the global biodiversity of this group. Importantly, approximately half are endemic to Australia, that is, they are found nowhere else in the world. This rich diversity of species provides Australia with considerable benefit. Some species are economically important to Australian fisheries (e.g. Gummy Sharks), and have wide ranging social and economic values, including acting as tourism attractions (e.g. Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) at Ningaloo reef, Reef Manta Rays (Mobula alfredi) at Lady Elliot Island). Sharks and rays are also important to many Indigenous Australians featuring in the traditions, cultures and livelihoods of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In addition to these direct benefits to human communities, these animals play important roles in maintaining and regulating marine ecosystems, keeping marine systems in balance, and thus providing indirect benefits via a healthy marine environment.