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Exporter shocked at death of 30 sharks

A Queensland marine export company that sent healthy scalloped hammerhead sharks captured off the Great Barrier Reef to a French aquarium will think twice before sending more.

Cairns Marine sent 18 young sharks to Nausicaa aquarium in the port of Boulogne, near Calais, in 2011 and another 12 last year but they have all since died, the last one in April.

The deaths have prompted an international legal action against Nausicaa and calls for the federal government, which approves these live exports, to stop the capture and trade of fragile and vulnerable species.

Shark researcher Darryl McPhee says hammerhead sharks are highly migratory and he was not surprised they did not survive in captivity.

Cairns Marine chief financial officer Ryan Donnelly called the deaths "bloody dreadful" saying the company had not even been told the sharks had become sick.

Cairns Marine has not received any more orders from Nausicca and says while it would be up to the federal government to approve such a request, they would reserve the right to make their own judgment call.

"At the end of the day it is a transaction between us and them and we would reserve the right to make a call on that if we were not satisfied ourselves."

Mr Donnelly said the sharks were caught in an approved fishery area around the reef and were in "premium condition" before leaving.

"I don't know what became of the animals or why - what's happened is bloody dreadful."

Dr McPhee, of Bond University, said hammerhead sharks were "highly migratory" and could roam up to 700km in the ocean.

He said some species of shark could thrive in an aquarium, but the hammerhead was unique and not suited to that environment.

"We really need to ask ourselves if we need to be exporting hammerhead sharks to be out in an aquarium on the other side of the world," Dr McPhee said.

He said he feared if the French aquarium tried a third time the sharks would die of the same infection.

Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner, said permission for live exports is a federal government matter,.

Animal welfare issues in other countries are a matter for the authorities in those countries, Mr Furner said.

Asked if regulations should be tightened or if there was a responsibility to ensure humane conditions, a spokesman for the federal environment department told AAP the specimens were taken in accordance with an approved wildlife trade operation.

© AAP 2019