The newly-formed New Zealand Shark Alliance (NZSA) launched a campaign with ITM Fishing Show presenter Matt Watson last week, encouraging New Zealanders to support a ban on shark finning in our waters.
Shark finning, where the fins of sharks are removed while the body is dumped at sea, is condemned as a highly unsustainable practice that uses just 2% of the shark. Shark populations have plunged worldwide, with an estimated 73 - 100 million sharks caught every year - just for their fins. Shark finning is already banned in 98 countries including Australia, EU member states and Canada, however it is not yet outlawed in New Zealand.
Watson, who condemns the practise of shark finning, is calling on the government to ban the practice. "I've seen it with my own eyes. [Fishers are] getting them and they're chopping those fins off ... and that amazing bit of protein that the ocean's produced is just being dumped overboard. To see a magnificent creature like a shark just killed and only its fins taken ...
it's just a terrible waste and a crying shame."
Driven by lucrative prices from Asia, where shark fins can be sold for $1200 per kilogram, fins are one of the world's most expensive seafood items on the menu. New Zealand is one of the top 20 exporters of shark fins globally and the industry is currently worth some $4.5 million dollars.
Forest & Bird and NZSA spokesperson Katrina Subedar says New Zealand's legislation, banning only the finning of live sharks, should be updated to avoid impacting on global marine systems. "Shark finning - the practice of only removing the fins of the shark and dumping the body at sea - is extremely wasteful. Sharks are the top predators in the ocean and if we continue to remove large numbers just for their fins, then we could see a major collapse in our marine ecosystems."
The 'National Plan of Action for sharks', which outlines the treatment, management and conservation of sharks is currently being reviewed by the Ministry for Primary Industries. According to Karli Thomas, NZSA and Greenpeace spokesperson, we must act now. "This is the first time New Zealand's shark plan has been reviewed since 2008, so now is our chance to end shark finning in New Zealand once and for all. Until we do that, our international reputation is at risk and we are letting down our Pacific neighbours, who, with far fewer resources than we have, are leading the world in shark conservation."
The NZSA is calling for all New Zealanders to voice their support to ban all shark finning adn ask for sharks to be brought to shore with "fins naturally attached".
New Zealanders can show their support by signing the pledge to ban shark finning in New Zealand on the NZSA website. Information about making a submission will be available soon.