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Brachaelurus waddi

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA CHONDRICHTHYES ORECTOLOBIFORMES BRACHAELURIDAE

Scientific Name: Brachaelurus waddi
Species Authority: (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
Common Name/s:
English Blind Shark, Brown Catfish

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2003
Date Assessed: 2003-04-30
Assessor/s: Kyne, P.M. & Bennett, M.B. (SSG Australia & Oceania Regional Workshop, March 2003)
Reviewer/s: Shark Specialist Group Australia & Oceania Regional Group (Shark Red List Authority)
Justification:
Brachaelurus waddi is endemic to the east coast of Australia. No detailed information is available on current population trends, however, it is a relatively common species. It is not targeted commercially or recreationally, and is likely to be only a minor component of fisheries bycatch. There is little information available on its biology or ecology but it appears to be a hardy species, capable of surviving out of water for extended periods; thus post-capture survivorship may be high. It is popular in the marine aquarium trade although current levels of exploitation are unknown. More research is needed, but since there are currently no significant threats to its viability it is assessed as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Brachaelurus waddi is endemic to the western South Pacific Ocean in warm temperate to subtropical waters along the east coast of Australia ranging from Mooloolaba in southern Queensland south to Jervis Bay in New South Wales (NSW) (Last and Stevens 1994, Johnson 1999). Last and Stevens (1994) state that "reports from Western Australia and the Northern Territory require confirmation". However, there are no confirmed reports of the species from either Western Australia (Barry Hutchins, personal communication) or from the Northern Territory (Helen Larson, personal communication) and it is probable that the grey carpetshark, Chiloscyllium punctatum (family Hemiscylliidae), may have been mistaken for B. waddi in these areas (Last and Stevens 1994, Barry Hutchins, personal communication).
Countries:
Native:
Australia (New South Wales, Queensland)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Native:
Pacific – southwest; Pacific – western central
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Brachaelurus waddi is relatively common throughout its range. There is no available information on subpopulations.
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Brachaelurus waddi is a secretive nocturnal benthic shark inhabiting rocky shorelines and reefs, and also nearby seagrass beds. It remains in rocky caves and under ledges during the day moving out to feed at night. Juveniles often occupy ledges, crevices and seagrass beds in high-energy surge zones (Kuiter 1993, Michael 1993). The species is reported over the continental shelf from the intertidal zone to 140 m depth (Last and Stevens 1994). Detailed dietary assessments are unavailable, however, the species is reported to feed on a variety of reef invertebrates, including sea anemones, squid and crustaceans, as well as small fishes (Whitley 1940, Last and Stevens 1994). Last and Stevens (1994) report a maximum size of 120 cm total length (TL), but note that individuals are normally much smaller than this maximum. A male of 60 cm TL and a female of 66 cm TL were both reported to be sexually mature (Last and Stevens 1994). This appears to be the only available information on sexual maturity in the species, and a smaller size at maturity is possible.

Brachaelurus waddi displays aplacental yolksac viviparity with litters of 7 to 8 young (Whitley 1940, Last and Stevens 1994). Parturition occurs around November, based on observations off Sydney, New South Wales (Whitley 1940, Last and Stevens 1994). Young are born at 17 cm TL (Last and Stevens 1994). Reproductive periodicity is assumed to be annual. There are no estimates available on gestation periods. Similarly, information on age and growth, natural mortality and behavioural ecology is lacking.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is not targeted or marketed commercially (Last and Stevens 1994). The flesh is reported to be unpalatable (Grant 1978) and recreational fishing is thought to have little impact on the species. Rock fishers often encounter blind sharks (Last and Stevens 1994), and while recreational fishers in NSW have been reported to retain very small amounts of the species (Rose and SAG 2001), it is thought that the shark is generally not retained and is probably mostly returned to the water (Dave Pollard, personal communication). Spearfishers are unlikely to encounter B. waddi because of its cryptic nocturnal nature. The species is likely to be taken as bycatch in demersal prawn trawl fisheries in NSW (ocean prawn trawl fishery) and in Queensland (East Coast Trawl Fishery). The NSW Ocean Trap and Line Fishery is also likely to occasionally capture this species, however numbers taken as bycatch are not known as there are no statistics available (Nick Otway, personal communication). Blind sharks are reported to be able to remain out of water for extended periods of time (up to 18 hours) (Michael 1993, Last and Stevens 1994). This apparent hardiness implies that the species could survive trawl capture more readily than other species if successfully returned to the water.

Shark control programs (SCP) operate in NSW and Queensland waters within the range of B. waddi. Dudley and Gribble (1999) report the species from the Queensland SCP but no details were provided. The shark has never been recorded in the NSW Protective Beach Meshing Program (Dennis Reid, personal communication). The mesh size used in the NSW program is 50-60 cm and in the Queensland program 50 cm, therefore blind sharks are likely to readily pass through the nets if encountered. Its capture in the Queensland SCP is likely to be extremely rare.

Blindsharks are exploited at low levels for the marine aquarium trade and are reported to be hardy and well suited to aquarium display (Michael 2001). The exact level of pressure placed on their populations by capture for this trade is unknown. The above interactions with the species are assumed to be having minimal impact on the viability of its populations. Furthermore, despite its cryptic nature, it appears to be relatively common, particularly in NSW waters (Jeff Johnson, personal communication).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: A number of Marine Protected Areas occur within the known range of B. waddi, however the zoning plans for these parks are complex and fishing activities are permitted in many of them, resulting in only a small area of fully protected sanctuaries. Marine Protected Areas in NSW waters where B. waddi is likely to occur and where commercial and recreational fishing activities are completely banned in at least some sections of the park are: Solitary Islands Marine Park (total area 71,000 hectares), Jervis Bay Marine Park (21,450 hectares), Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve (Sydney, 17 hectares), Bushrangers Bay Aquatic Reserve (Shell Harbour, 3 hectares) and Shiprock Aquatic Reserve (Port Hacking, two hectares). There is currently also a proposal for a Marine Park in the Bryon Bay region of northern NSW. In Queensland, B. waddi occurs in Moreton Bay Marine Park (306,000 hectares). Only small areas of this park with habitat suitable for B. waddi (Flinders Reef, north of Cape Moreton and Peel Island) are protected from fishing activities. Additionally, the species is likely to occur in the Commonwealth managed Solitary Islands Marine Reserve (17,000 hectares), adjacent to NSW?s Solitary Islands Marine Park.

Although currently not at risk of extinction, research into this species is needed to provide data on life history and ecology, to identify the level of interaction with fisheries as bycatch, and to provide more information on the status of the species.
Citation: Kyne, P.M. & Bennett, M.B. (SSG Australia & Oceania Regional Workshop, March 2003) 2003. Brachaelurus waddi. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 24 April 2014.
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