Madi Stewart photographing sharks in the Caribbean.
Madi Stewart photographing sharks in the Caribbean. Ernst Stewart

Humans real predators of ocean

BYRON Bay's Madison Stewart has spent most of her life with sharks.

Naturally that led to her getting involved with politics.

Ms Stewart, 18, wants people interested in protecting the ocean's assets to lobby the Federal Government to revise fishery management plans because of concerns about dwindling shark numbers.

The Federal Government is taking submissions on whether to extend its approval for the Queensland East Coast Fin Fish Fishery.

The fishery, which stretches into the Great Barrier Reef, is approved until February 28.

Its current management plan allows commercial fishers to catch sharks.

Ms Stewart said the current plan allowed 600 tonnes of shark to be removed from the fishery annually for domestic consumption and export markets in Asia.

The level of shark fishing worries Ms Stewart.

She pointed to recent research from James Cook University that found shark numbers on the Great Barrier Reef were falling because of over-fishing.

She said she was deeply concerned about the future conservation of the Great Barrier Reef's shark population and the impact a reduction in shark numbers could have on the wider marine ecosystem.

"Sharks are apex predators, they control all the species below them and everything in the oceans has a purpose," she said.

"We are killing an estimated 100 million sharks a year worldwide, at a rate so fast the effects are not yet conclusive."

Ms Stewart said she hoped the negative perception of sharks held by some sections of the public would not stop people seeing the crucial role they played in the marine ecosystem.

"I don't need people to love sharks, we just need to recognise the oceans need them and we need the oceans," she said.

"Our fear should not be enough to bring down an entire species. We are the dangerous ones in the oceans.

"The injustices the oceans face are so severe.

"Only recently a tiger shark was killed in shark nets on the Gold Coast.

"It was pregnant with 30 pups, so we lost 31 sharks, and the media merely listed it as a 'monster'."

Ms Stewart said only through the public lobbying the government would it respond to conservationists' concerns.

"The government needs to see that people are in favour of oceans protection, and only then will they do something about it," she said.

Submissions on the fishery plan can be sent to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities until October 21.

More information about this issue can be found at Ms Stewart's blog:

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