SPECIES of hammerhead sharks have joined the great white, the grey nurse and the wobbegong in gaining protection status in NSW.
NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson has announced the great hammerhead shark has been listed as a vulnerable species and the scalloped hammerhead shark as an endangered species in NSW waters.
"Following a detailed assessment, both species are now totally protected, meaning that they may no longer be taken by recreational or commercial fishers," Ms Hodgkinson said.
"It is an offence to harm, sell or possess threatened species or damage their habitat without a specific permit, licence of other appropriate approval."
Penalties for breaching these rules can be severe, ranging up to $220,000 and two years in prison.
Government research has found the threatened species are particularly susceptible to population depletion.
"Hammerheads have late onset of maturity, long gestation periods, produce relatively few pups and have high rates of pup mortality," Ms Hodgkinson said.
"Scalloped hammerheads can also form dense aggregations and large migratory schools that are highly vulnerable to fishing.
"Other shark species listed as protected are the Grey Nurse Shark as Critically Endangered and the Great White Shark as vulnerable."
Hammerheads, known for their great ocean migrations in large schools, are commonly found throughout the Solitary Island Marine Park in cooler ocean currents and around beaches.
The coastal-pelagic and semi-oceanic species are found inshore and well off-shore around the Continental Shelf and mainly feed on sting rays.