Dusky Whaler (2018)

Carcharhinus obscurus

  • Matias Braccini (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Grant Johnson (Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Northern Territory)
  • James Woodhams (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
  • Paul Rogers (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Vic Peddemors (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

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Dusky Whaler is a shark found off the western, southern and northern coasts of Australia. In WA stocks are recovering and there is an undefined stock in eastern Australia.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
New South Wales Eastern Australia OTF, OTLF Undefined Catch
Ocean Trawl Fishery (NSW)
Ocean Trap and Line Fishery (NSW)
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Stock Structure

Dusky Shark has a tropical to warm-temperate distribution and is found off the west, south and north coasts of Australia, mostly between latitude 18°S and 36°S [McAuley et al. 2007, Rogers et al. 2013a], and off the east coast, where the range of the species is currently undefined. Electronic and conventional tagging studies have shown Dusky Sharks move between South Australia and Western Australia [Huveneers et al. 2014, Rogers et al. 2013b, Simpfendorfer et al. 1999], and genetic analyses suggest there is restricted gene flow between Dusky Shark off eastern and western Australia [Geraghty et al. 2014]. Therefore, Dusky Shark in South Australian and Western Australian waters are considered to form a single biological stock (the Western Australia stock). This biological stock exhibits a high degree of ontogenetic segregation, with juveniles most common in temperate latitudes and adults in warmer northern latitudes [McAuley et al. 2007, McAuley et al. 2015].

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

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Stock Status

Eastern Australia

Dusky Shark is taken as a non-target species by Commonwealth fishers in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (ETBF). Biological stock status has not been assessed in the ETBF, but the species has been considered using ecological risk assessment methods and found to be at medium risk [AFMA 2018]. Catches in the ETBF have averaged around 2.3 tonnes (t) over the last 10 years. The species is also taken in the Gillnet Hook and Trap Sector (GHTS) of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery (SESSF), with catches averaging around 1.7 t over the last eight years.

In Queensland, species-specific reporting of Dusky Sharks only commenced in 2009 and only for a sub-component of the Queensland East Coast Inshore Net Fishery. The reported harvest since this time has averaged about 2 t per year.

In New South Wales, Dusky Shark, was not identified and reported at the species level in commercial catch logbooks until 2009. Observer data indicate that whaler sharks represent the second highest shark species catch in the New South Wales Ocean Trap and Line Fishery (15 per cent of overall catch) [Macbeth at al. 2009]. During the period under consideration, around 1.88 t of Dusky Shark was landed in New South Wales. A catch of around 1 t was reported by the New South Wales Shark Meshing Program. Insufficient information is currently available to determine status for any of the whaler shark species in New South Wales, including Dusky Shark [Rowling et al. 2010].

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

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Dusky Shark biology [Geraghty et al. 2013, McAuley et al. 2007, Simpfendorfer et al. 2002]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Dusky Whaler Females > 40 years, 2 890 mm FL Males > 32 years, 3 560 mm TL (~2 920 mm FL) Females 27–35 years, 2 540 mm FL  
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Dusky Shark

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Fishing methods
New South Wales
Demersal Longline
Otter Trawl
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial closures
Bag limits
Native Title
Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority
Bag limits
New South Wales
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Shore-based catches are undetermined but consist primarily of juveniles

Commercial (catch) Western Australian (state) and Eastern Australia biological stock is for Dusky Shark only. However, South Australian catches are reported as undifferentiated whaler sharks and are therefore not presented.

Commonwealth – Recreational The Australian Government does not manage recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters. Recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters, under its management regulations.

Commonwealth – Indigenous The Australian Government does not manage non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters, with the exception of the Torres Strait. In general, non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters.

Western Australia – Recreational (Management Methods) A recreational fishing from boat licence is required for recreational fishing from a powered vessel in Western Australia.

New South Wales commercial fisheries with less than seven active fishers are not presented due to the Privacy Act.

New South Wales – Commercial (catch) For the Ocean Trap and Line Fishery (New South Wales), only one business reported sufficient catch to suggest targeting.

New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) (a) Aboriginal Cultural 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 for themselves; (b) 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 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority; and (c) In cases where the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) applies fishing activity can be undertaken by the person holding native title in line with S.211 of that Act, which provides for fishing activities for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. In managing the resource where native title has been formally recognised, the native title holders are engaged with to ensure their native title rights are respected and inform management of the State's fisheries resources.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catches of Dusky Shark - note confidential catch not shown

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  1. Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Tropical Tuna and Billfish Management Advisory Committee (TTMAC19), Meeting Minutes, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  2. Braccini, M, Hesp, A, Molony, B and Blay, N in prep Resource Assessment Report Whiskery, Gummy, Dusky and Sandbar Shark Resource of Western Australia. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
  3. 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.
  4. Geraghty, PT, Williamson, JE, Macbeth, WG, Blower, DC, Morgan, JAT, Johnson, G, Ovenden, JR and Gillings, MR 2014, Genetic structure and diversity of two highly vulnerable carcharhinids in Australian waters, Endangered Species Research, 24: 45–60.
  5. Huveneers, C, Rogers, P and Drew, M 2014, Monitoring shark species of conservation concern within the Adelaide metropolitan and Gulf St Vincent regions, final report to the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), SARDI publication F2013/000716-1, SARDI research report series 754, SARDI, Adelaide, 89.
  6. Jones, K 2008, Review of the fishery status for whaler sharks (Carcharhinus spp.) in South Australian and adjacent waters, report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, FRDC project 2004/067, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences) publication F2007/000721-1, SARDI research report series 154, SARDI, Adelaide.
  7. 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, Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre of Excellence, New South Wales Industry and Investment, Cronulla.
  8. 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), 2016/001375, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  9. McAuley, R and Simpfendorfer, C 2003, Catch composition of the Western Australian Temperate Demersal Gillnet and Demersal Longline fisheries, 1994–1999, Fisheries research report 146, Western Australian Department of Fisheries, Perth.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Rogers, P, Huveneers, C, Goldsworthy, SD, Mitchell, JG and Seuront, L 2013, Broad-scale movements and pelagic habitat of the Dusky Shark Carcharhinus obscurus off Southern Australia determined using pop-up satellite archival tags, Fisheries and Oceanography, 22: 102–112.
  13. Rogers, PR, Huveneers, C, Goldsworthy SD, Cheung, WWL, Jones KG, Mitchell, JG and Seuront, L 2013, Population metrics and movement of two sympatric carcharhinids: a comparison of the vulnerability of pelagic sharks of the southern Australian gulfs and shelves, Marine and Freshwater Research, 64: 20–30.
  14. Rowling, K, Hegarty, A-M and Ives, M 2010, Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2008/09, New South Wales Industry and Investment, Cronulla.
  15. Ryan K, Hall N, Lai E, Smallwood C, Taylor S, Wise B. 2017. Statewide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2015/16. Fisheries Research Report No. 287, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia.
  16. Simpfendorfer CA, McAuley R, Chidlow JA, Lenanton R, Hall N and Bastow T 1999. Biology and stock assessment of Western Australia’s commercially important shark species. Project 96/130 Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Department of Fisheries of Western Australia, Perth.
  17. Simpfendorfer, C 1999, Demographic analysis of the dusky shark fishery in southwestern Australia, in JA Musick (ed.), Life in the slow lane: Ecology and conservation of long-lived marine animals, American Fisheries Society Symposium 23, Bethesda, Maryland, 149–160.
  18. Simpfendorfer, CA, McAuley, R, Chidlow, J and Unsworth, P 2002, Validated age and growth of the Dusky Shark, Carcharhinus obscurus, from Western Australian waters, Marine and Freshwater Research, 53: 567–573.

Downloadable reports

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