Sandbar Shark (2020)

Carcharhinus plumbeus

  • Matias Braccini (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Alice Pidd (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)
  • Michael Usher (Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Northern Territory)
  • Victor Peddemors (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)

Date Published: June 2021

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Sandbar Shark occurs primarily off both the east and west coasts of Australia. The eastern Australian stock is sustainable and the Western Australian stock is recovering.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
New South Wales Eastern Australia Sustainable

Catch, NeOGen genetic population estimate

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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 coast [McAuley et al. 2007, Last and Stevens 2009]. 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 stocks [Portnoy et al. 2010], 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 Australia and Eastern Australia.

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Stock Status

Eastern Australia

In New South Wales, whaler sharks (Carcharhinus spp.), including Sandbar Shark, 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 2009 [Macbeth et al. 2009]. Since the introduction of new logbooks in 2009, fishers are required to report all landed sharks to species level with improved reliability of species identification following development of a species identification guide and at-sea education via an observer program [Macbeth et al. 2018]. Since new management arrangements  were introduced in 2013–14, catch has not exceeded 3.8 tonnes (t) per annum, with 3.64 t reported for the fiscal year 2018–19. Insufficient information is available to undertake a quantitative stock assessment of any whaler shark species in NSW [Rowling et al. 2010]. Therefore, a weight-of-evidence approach combining catch data and analysis of Effective Population Size has been used to determine stock status. In Queensland, Sandbar Shark are caught in negligible quantities (<1 t per year combined since 2011) across the net and line fishery components of the East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery. A peak in combined harvest occurred in 2010 (1.6 t) with harvests not exceeding 0.6 t since then [QFISH 2020], contributing little to the overall eastern Australian harvest of the species. New software known as NeOGen [Blower et al 2019] has been developed which enabled calculation of the total population of Sandbar Sharks on the eastern Australian coastline to be approximately 105 000 individuals based on 476 genetic samples [Blower 2020].  Simulations at current fishing levels indicate observed fishery harvest volumes to be sustainable [Blower 2020]. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. The above evidence also indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

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

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Sandbar Shark biology [Geraghty et al. 2013, McAuley et al. 2007, McAuley et al. 2006]

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
New South Wales
Otter Trawl
Hook and Line
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Effort limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Processing restrictions
Spatial closures
Vessel restrictions
Customary fishing management arrangements
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
New South Wales
Commercial 3.64t
Indigenous Unknown but likely to be negligible
Recreational Unknown but likely to be negligible

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

Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) for more information see https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/traditional-fishing

New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing

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

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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  1. Blower D.C., C. Riginos, J.R. Ovenden. (2019). NeOGen: A tool to predict genetic effective population size (Ne) for species with generational overlap and to assist empirical Ne study design. Molecular Ecology Resources 19: 290-271.
  2. Blower, D. C. 2020. Estimating contemporary abundance, demography, and vulnerability to change for long-lived species with effective population size and population simulation. PhD thesis. School of Biological Sciences, p. 257. The University of Queensland.
  3. Braccini, M, Blay, N, Hesp, A, and Molony, B 2018. Resource Assessment Report Temperate Demersal Elasmobranch Resource of Western Australia. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. Fisheries Research Report No. 294 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia. 149 pp
  4. 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.
  5. Last, PR and Stevens, JD 2009, Sharks and rays of Australia, 2nd edn, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.
  6. Macbeth, WG, Butcher, PA, Collins, D, McGrath, SP, Provost, SC, Bowling, AC, Geraghty, PT and Peddemors, VM 2018, Improving reliability of species identification and logbook catch reporting by commercial fishers in an Australian demersal shark longline. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 25: 186–202.
  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, Fisheries final report series 114, Industry and Investment New South Wales, 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), Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  9. 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.
  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, 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. QFish, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, www.qfish.gov.au
  17. Rowling, KA, Hegarty, A and Ives, M 2010, Status of fisheries resources in NSW 2008/09, Industry and Investment New South Wales, Cronulla.
  18. Ryan, K.L., Hall, N. G., Lai, E. K., Smallwood, C. B., Tate, A., Taylor, S. M. and Wise, B. S. (2019). Statewide survey of boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia 2017/18. Fisheries Research Report No. 297, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia

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