You probably wouldn’t expect an animal conservation group to buy an Australian shark fishing license, but that’s exactly what the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are planning.
The holder of the “N4 license” has the right to drag a 1.2 kilometer (0.75 miles) net anywhere along the length of the Great Barrier Reef in order to target sharks and gray mackerel. WWF Australia is seeking donations to cover the cost of purchasing the $100,000 licenses. By purchasing a license, the WWF hopes to take it out of circulation and retire it.
You can donate directly to this WWF Shark Net fund by clicking here.
There are a total of five N4 licenses available in Queensland, Australia. The original plan was to purchase just one of these licenses. However, the WWF released an update today saying: “We've been blown away by your support! So great news...we’re increasing our target so we can buy two licenses. That’s two nets off our Reef forever.”
The WWF has argued against the introduction of these licenses since the get-go. Now it’s more important than ever, with shark catches on the Reef rising from 222 tonnes (244 tons) in 2014 to 402 tonnes (442 tons) in 2015. As a direct result of this, the Reef is suffering from a huge decline in shark species, along with damaging numbers of dugongs, turtles, and dolphins.
“This is an opportunity for people to help stop a massive 1.2 km long net from sitting in Reef waters and indiscriminately killing almost everything that swims into it,” WWF-Australia conservation director Gilly Llewellyn said in a statement.
“These enormous nets kill tens of thousands of juvenile sharks each year, including hammerheads, which are listed internationally as endangered. Hammerhead numbers have crashed in Queensland, possibly by 80 percent."
But the effect of this on sharks and other marine animals is only half the story. A study from 2013 pointed out that declining numbers of sharks, the apex predator of that ecosystem, has a hugely detrimental effect all the way down the food chain, eventually landing heavily on the coral reefs.
“This will save at least 10,000 sharks each year, prevent dugongs, turtles and dolphins being killed as bycatch, and help the Reef heal after the worst coral bleaching in its history,” Llewellyn added.