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Monday, March 21

Government can protect sharks now

The Green Party is calling for an end to shark finning at the start of World Shark Week this week.

"I think many New Zealanders would be shocked to discover shark finning − the practice of killing a shark, cutting off its fins, and discarding the carcass back to sea − is still legal in New Zealand, despite being illegal elsewhere," said the Green Party Oceans spokesperson Gareth Hughes.

"It's like killing an elephant for its tusks and is grossly wasteful.

"The Green Party is calling on the Government to align our shark fin policies with United Nations recommendations and adopt a 'fins naturally attached policy' which would require vessels to keep the whole animal, rather than discarding carcasses at sea."

Mr Hughes said that annually around 73 million sharks worldwide were killed only for their fins, mostly for shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, which he called unsustainable and extremely wasteful.

"In 2008, Nick Smith, now Minister for the Environment, called shark finning 'abhorrent', and the Greens agree," said Mr Hughes.

"The Government is due to review our National Plan of Action−Sharks in 2012, but if this Government were serious about protecting sharks, they could move that date forward.

"New Zealand is an international laggard in shark protection, claiming that shark finning is acceptable because our species are protected by the Quota Management System, yet we freely admit we have insufficient data on these species to define sustainable catch limits."

Mr Hughes said that New Zealand legislated for the protection of just two shark species, the great white shark and the basking shark, yet 28 of the 79 shark species caught commercially in New Zealand were listed as 'threatened' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"New Zealand ranks in the top 15 of shark catching nations, so we cannot just blame other countries for the decline of global shark populations, which for some species has been as high as 90%," said Mr Hughes.

"Sharks are amazing creatures and fearsome predators, but they don't stand a chance against our industrial fishing fleets and growing demand for shark fin soup."

Mr Hughes will be diving with sharks at midday on Wednesday 23 March at Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium with Seaweek National Coordinator Mels