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The waters around Australia contain many species of sharks. Although most species are not dangerous to humans, in a number of tragic cases people who encounter those that are have suffered serious injuries or been killed. These encounters, or concerns about the potential for them, have led to the implementation of measures intended to promote public safety, some of which are designed to be lethal to sharks but can also result in the unwanted capture of other marine life. Although lethal measures are in place in certain parts of the country, Australian governments have, over many years, contributed to global conservation efforts in response to concerns about declining shark populations. Australia is party to international agreements that seek to ensure shark populations are managed sustainably and some shark species are protected under Commonwealth law.

Essentially, this inquiry examines the effectiveness of the lethal and non-lethal measures taken in Australia to protect the public from dangerous species of sharks. In doing so, the committee explores how the public safety measures, shark conservation efforts and Commonwealth environmental law interact; considers whether the current arrangements represent the most desirable and effective response; and looks to the future to understand developments that may improve public safety significantly without harming the marine environment.

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