Hammerhead Sharks in NSW – Frequently Asked Questions

Released/updated: October 2015

What species of hammerhead sharks occur in NSW waters?

  • Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
  • Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini)
  • Smooth Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna zygaena)

What species of hammerhead sharks are listed as threatened in NSW?

The Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran) has been listed as a Vulnerable Species, and the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini) has been listed as an Endangered Species in NSW under the Fisheries Management Act 1994.

The Smooth Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna zygaena) is not currently listed as a threatened or protected species in NSW.

Why have two species of hammerhead sharks been listed?

The NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee (FSC) has found that the Great Hammerhead Shark is facing a high risk of extinction in NSW in the medium-term future and therefore it has been listed as a Vulnerable species.

The FSC has found that the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark is facing a very high risk of extinction in NSW in the near future, and therefore it has been listed as an Endangered species.

Why has the Great Hammerhead Shark become Vulnerable and the Scalloped Hammerhead Shark become Endangered?

A range of threatening processes have been identified by the FSC, including continued harvest in recreational and commercial fisheries and capture in the NSW shark meshing (bather protection) program. Both species are susceptible to overfishing due to late onset of maturity, long gestation and high rates of pup mortality.

Target and bycatch fishing in commercial and recreational fisheries, illegal fishing including shark fining and capture in bather protection mesh nets contribute to population decline.

Are any other sharks listed in the Fisheries Management Act 1994?

Yes, the Greynurse Shark is listed as Critically Endangered, and the White Shark is listed as Vulnerable. In addition, the Herbsts Nurse Shark is listed as a Protected Fish in NSW.

What does a listing mean for fishing?

Once a species is listed, offences are established for harming, buying, selling or possessing threatened species and for damaging the habitat of threatened species. Both listed species of hammerhead sharks are totally protected and cannot be taken by recreational or commercial fishers in NSW.

What if you are not sure which species of hammerhead shark you have caught?

A new hammerhead shark identification guide is now available to assist fishers to accurately identify all three species of hammerhead sharks that occur in NSW waters. The guide Hammerhead Sharks in NSW – A guide for fishers is available.

Most interactions with hammerhead sharks in NSW are likely to be with Smooth Hammerhead Sharks, but it is imperative that you correctly identify the species before retaining the shark. If you are unsure, release the shark immediately with minimal harm.

Heavy penalties apply for harming, buying, selling, or possessing a threatened species in NSW.

Further advisory material on identification of Great Hammerhead and Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks and other sharks is available on this website, including a guide to Identifying Sharks and Rays.

What do I do if I catch a Great Hammerhead or Scalloped Hammerhead Shark?

Any incidentally caught Great Hammerhead or Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks must be immediately released and returned to the water with least possible harm, or if deceased, must be discarded.

If you are a commercial or charter fishing business you should record the interaction in your catch and effort logbook and if possible take and submit a photo. You will not be penalised for reporting an accidental capture of a threatened fish species.

If you are a recreational fisher, please report the details of your interaction online.

Please note that offences apply to buying, selling, possessing or harming a Great Hammerhead or Scalloped Hammerhead Shark or for damaging their habitat without a specific permit, licence or other appropriate approval. These offences apply regardless of whether the animals are alive or dead, whole or in parts.

What do I do if I catch a Smooth Hammerhead Shark?

Smooth Hammerhead Sharks are not currently listed as threatened or protected species and may be legally caught and retained subject to the relevant fishing rules. A bag limit of 1 Smooth Hammerhead Shark per day applies to recreational fishers.

Where can I find more information on hammerhead sharks?

How do I report illegal fishing?

You can report illegal fishing by phoning 1800 043 536 or by completing the online form.