7 August 2006

A shark and ray forum held on Stradbroke Island has led to the establishment of research networks and conservation solutions for the region.

Delegates to the Southern Queensland Elasmobranch Research Forum (SQERF), held for the first time last year, met at The University of Queensland’s Moreton Bay Research Station on North Stradbroke Island on July 25 and 26.

Elasmobranchs are sharks and batoids (or rays) and are represented in southern Queensland by 116 species from 37 families, equating to approximately 10 percent of the global fauna and around 70 percent of the total number of species known from Queensland.

In recent years, elasmobranch research has increased globally, largely due to a heightened awareness of the vulnerability of this group to population depletion from human activities.

SQERF was organised and initiated by students and its aim was to showcase postgraduate student research, leading to better research networks and industry collaboration.

University researchers and academics also attended, as well as representatives from government, policy-makers, aquarists and a local fisherman (representing the fishing community of Moreton Bay).

Vera Schluessel, one of the forum’s organisers, said the event was designed to give students a chance to introduce their research projects and obtain possible help with access to animals, including tissue samples.

“The forum was held to facilitate any form of exchange with all parties involved but there was a strong focus on students,” Ms Schluessel said.

“The event was a success. The talks were of good quality, they were diverse and interesting and there was quite a good attendance from around Australia.

“It was very beneficial for students. It is difficult for research students to meet with industry partners and other researchers and gain access to samples and equipment. Having the opportunity to meet with potential collaborators face-to-face is very important.

“It was also important that a fishing representative was there. Students and researchers need to interact with the community.

“We definitely plan to hold the event next year,” she said.

Last year, the forum focused at a state level but it was extended to a national level this year with students attending from UQ, James Cook University, Griffith University, Macquarie University, Deakin University, Flinders University and others.

The forum was organised by UQ students Vera Schleussel and Blake Harahush, and Griffith University student Clint Chapman.

It was sponsored by schools from UQ and Griffith University and the Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation.

Keynote speakers were elasmobranch researchers Terence Walker, Primary Industries Research, Victoria, and Barry Bruce, CSIRO, Hobart.

Media: Vera Schleussel (07 3346 9873, 0405 978 102), Elizabeth Kerr at UQ Communications (07 3365 2339)