The Government says sharks should benefit from a proposed ban on wire traces and shark lines in two commercial fisheries.

The new measures will reduce shark bycatch and accidental catch, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said.

MPI wanted feedback on the proposed restrictions, which would apply to tuna and billfish fisheries.

The ministry said initial feedback showed wire traces and shark lines were not currently common amongst commercial operators, so there shouldn't be problems with commercial fishing firms complying with the ban.


University of Auckland shark scientist and Shark Man TV show host Riley Elliott said sharks were still getting caught in intolerably high numbers.

But he said in many respects, it wasn't in commercial fishers' interests to catch sharks.

"Ultimately they want to catch more tuna, not sharks. And that is better for everyone. And what's great is that has been acknowledged, I guess, with the ban on shark finning.

"Yet he said the impact of existing shark conservation efforts such as the finning ban remained unclear.

Mr Elliott said loopholes in law still existed which caused problems for sharks.

"That's the fisheries saying 'Look we can't even sell this stuff anymore so it's not worth us doing it anyway. So let's work together and figure out how we can catch more tuna and less sharks' - which from a biological point of view is a very hard thing to do, because sharks are very good at finding food in the ocean.

"At a conservative estimate, tens of thousands of blue sharks alone were killed in New Zealand waters each year.

Mr Elliott said politicians should ask commercial fishers a simple question.


"Are you trying to catch sharks or not? If you're [not] then great, you're banning these things that shouldn't be there in the first place.

"So let's look at the real problems, which is this loophole of encouraging fishers to give back their hooks when they catch sharks and ... that loophole that allows them to bring it on board, kill it and throw it back and not count it.

"Mr Elliott said there were also aspects of the shark trade, including the use of shark liver and shark-derived biomedical products, that slipped under the radar.Fat Boy Charters owner and fisherman Russ Hawkins of Mt Maunganui said wire traces and shark lines were not widely used.

He said recreational and commercial fishers in New Zealand were mostly responsible and supported plans to protect biodiversity.

Mr Hawkins said he always advised people who accidentally caught sharks to put them back in the ocean alive."Why hurt it? We're in its country, its area," Mr Hawkins said.

"Let the species carry on."He said some of the lines MPI proposed banning were uncommon in New Zealand waters but more widely used in the tropics.The proposed bans followed an international meeting on shark protection.

Members of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission agreed at their latest meeting on additional measures to protect sharks.The Fisheries (Commercial Fishing) Regulations 2001 would be amended if the ban went ahead.

"Sharks can play important roles in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. Sharks also share biological characteristics that can make them susceptible to over-fishing," the ministry said in the discussion paper.

"The gear restrictions proposed in this paper will minimise the risk of incidental bycatch and improve the ability of fishers to release sharks alive," the ministry added.People have until May 18 to make submissions to MPI on the topic.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation established an International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.The Plan of Action compelled countries to work together in ensuring the sustainability of shark stocks.