The New Zealand government has tightened its timetable to impose a total ban on shark finning after it received an overwhelming public response on the issue.
In November, ministers proposed a ban on the finning of dead sharks in a draft version of the plan, the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, and called on submissions from industry and the public. They initially recommended that the ban should be applied to all fisheries by 2016.
“The 45,300 submissions in favour of the proposal to ban finning show New Zealanders’ attitudes to sharks have come a long way since the ‘Jaws’ days,” said Conservation Minister Nick Smith.
“It is now widely recognised that sharks are an important part of the marine ecosystem and that we need to ensure the 113 species of shark in our waters survive.”
Many of those submitting comments called for a swifter timetable towards the practice. As a result, the finning ban will come into practice for a first tranche of species on October 1, followed by a second tranche a year later. A third tranche, for the highly migratory blue sharks will be implemented on October 1, 2016.
This third point might lead to criticism as blue sharks are one of the most vulnerable species to the finning practice, with between 50,000 and 150,000 blue sharks thought to be killed in New Zealand waters every year.
“This tightened timetable is achievable and puts in place these new protections for sharks as quickly as possible,” added Nathan Guy, the primary industries minister.
“It is already an offence under the Animal Welfare Act to fin a shark and return it to sea alive. Under the extended ban, it will also become illegal to catch a shark, kill it, remove its fins and dump the carcass at sea.”
“The commercial fishing industry has been aware for some time that changes were coming. Timing for the banning of shark finning provides sufficient lead in for the industry to practically adjust their processes.”
Changes in rules
The new ban requires fishing companies to release sharks caught up in tuna nets, or bring them ashore with fins attached for processing.
New Zealand is among the world's top 20 exporters of shark fins, most of which are sent to Asia.
The government’s policy strategy also contains a range of goals for the conservation and management of sharks to maintain their biodiversity and long-term viability.
“Sharks play an important role in our marine ecosystems, and this plan builds on New Zealand’s proud history of balancing conservation and the prudent use of resources to ensure their long-term sustainability,” added Smith.