Public input is wanted as Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation work on a plan of action for the conservation of sharks.
The draft National Plan of Action Sharks 2022 sets out directions for the conservation, management, and sustainability of sharks caught in New Zealand waters. It has a vision that New Zealanders will work toward ensuring the long-term viability, biodiversity and functional role of sharks in our marine ecosystems, and that any utilisation of sharks in Aotearoa is sustainable.
Fisheries New Zealand's director [of] fisheries management Emma Taylor says, as apex predators, sharks play an important role in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems.
"We've made good progress towards protecting sharks through introducing a ban on shark finning practices in New Zealand waters in 2014, and by careful management within the Quota Management System. The draft plan aims to strengthen protection for sharks by ensuring best practice is followed to return any unwanted sharks to the sea alive with the best possible chances of survival."
"It also promotes research into new shark-derived products to maximise the use of sharks that are taken commercially and support sustainability of shark populations."
Department of Conservation aquatic director Kirstie Knowles says: "Due to the biological characteristics of sharks they can take a long time to mature and only produce a small number of young with low rates of survival, so it's important that we do everything we can to maximise the survival of any unwanted and protected sharks that are caught in our waters."
The draft plan builds on the previous 2013 plan and was developed by a Shark Advisory Group representing government agencies, tangata whenua, environmental groups, and commercial and recreational fishers.
"Many of the goals and objectives from the previous NPOA remain relevant, and these have been included in the draft. On top of that we've included several new goals and objectives which reflect new information and priorities," says Kirstie Knowles.
The draft plan includes seven goals and 22 objectives; each goal and objective has a rationale and performance measures associated with it.
The goals include:
•ensuring biodiversity and maintaining shark populations over time
•encouraging increased utilisation of sharks subject to the quota management system
•avoiding protected and unwanted shark captures, and maximising post-release survival
•managing non-fishing threats to sharks and their habitats
•better integration of tangata whenua perspectives and values in shark management
•maintain and develop international engagement for shark management; and
•improve research, data and information about sharks and their habitats.
"We encourage anyone with an interest to provide feedback on the draft plan before consultation closes on September 13," says Emma Taylor.
A copy of the draft plan and further information, including how to make a submission, can be found online at: www.mpi.govt.nz/national-plan-of-action-sharks-2022.
Following consultation, Fisheries New Zealand and the Department of Conservation will analyse the submissions and provide an amended final plan to the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries and the Minister of Conservation for their approval.
Once finalised, the plan will be fully reviewed as required to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of New Zealand's efforts to address the conservation and management of sharks.