Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Shark Awareness Week kicks off with hopes to ban finning

The survival of the ocean's top predator is under threat which means it is time for the country to join a global movement to ban shark finning from its waters, the New Zealand Shark Alliance says.

"It is a senseless waste to be killing sharks just for their fins and dumping their bodies," WWF-NZ Marine Species advocate Milena Palka said.

The Government is about to release its National Plan for Action on Sharks for public consultation.

It will set out a plan for sharks for the next five years, and Ms Palka said it was crucial that it commits to a ban on shark finning.

Shark Awareness Week started today and included with shark conservation activities planned during the week, a large mural is being painted by street artists in Wellington near Waitangi Park to highlight the issue.

The 50m by 6m work of art will feature the estimated 190 sharks that die every minute around te world.

"Sharks often make the headlines for the wrong reasons. However, rather than being a threat many species of shark are under threat themselves," Ms Palka said.

Around the world about 270,000 sharks are killed every day - many just for their fins, she said.

The practice had been banned by almost 100 countries and states but was still legal in New Zealand.

"That's got to stop. Globally, shark finning is threatening the survival of many species of shark. It is time for New Zealand to catch up, and show that it really is clean and green," Ms Palka said.

Shark Awareness Week was being organised by the New Zealand Shark Alliance - a coalition of organisations that are working together to promote awareness of sharks and the need to end shark finning.

The New Zealand Shark Alliance is made up of Greenpeace, Forest & Bird, WWF, ECO, Sea Shepard Our Seas Our Future, White Shark Conservation Trust, New Zealand Underwater, Shark Fin Free Auckland, ITM Fishing show, Kelly Tarlton's, and Earthrace.

By the numbers:

* NZ is one of the top 20 exporters of shark fins to Hong Kong, alongside Spain, Taiwan, and Singapore;

* NZ shark fin exports are worth $4.5 million annually;

* more than 73 of the 112 shark species in NZ waters are commercially fished;

* 9 per cent (11 species) are managed under the Quota Management System; and

* the remaining species in NZ waters are unprotected.

(source: Forest and Bird)

- APNZ

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