Shark finning: one of these isn’t like the other

One of these things is not like the other ones, one of these things is not quite the same. Any ideas?

I’ll give you a clue: all bar one have taken on board a vast array of international advice, and adopted a policy that protects the apex predator in our largest and most complex ecosystem.

Got it yet?

Shark finning, or the practise of killing a shark, taking its fins and tail and dumping the carcass at sea, is still legal in New Zealand. Every other country on that list has legislated against shark finning (or in the case of Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver started a massive campaign against fisheries exploitation), and that’s just within the last six months. So why do we, in little old NZ, who is the first-fifteen of global shark catchers, not want to be on that list, and why aren’t we?

Internationally, 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins. 20 million blue sharks are killed annually solely for their fins. In many cases, the shark is still alive while being finned. This is a well-documented issue that I’ve blogged on before.

So what’s new? Well, within the last 24 hours, the California legislature has voted“overwhelmingly to approved a ban on the sale and distribution of shark fins”, because they recognised the harm that unchecked attrition of the top predator does to the entire ocean. Californian legislators acknowledged that they had to balance the cultural value of shark fin soup with the detrimental effects of finning, but even the cultural argument may not be so strong in years to come, with indications that even China, the world’s biggest shark fin consumer, may be moving to legislate against shark finning.

The world acknowledges that you can’t just endlessly kill (in a wasteful, cruel manner) a long-lived, slow-breeding predator, essential for regulating the oceans of the entire planet.

So what’s keeping us? We don’t actually seem to have any real reason. Even the current Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, whilst in opposition, called the practice “abhorrent”. This is why I, along with the United Nations General Assembly, Forest and Bird, the IUCN and others are calling for NZ to immediately implement a ‘fins naturally attached’ (requiring vessels to keep the whole shark, rather than discarding carcasses at sea) policy on shark catch, which would significantly hamper the trade. The Greens are also calling for an immediate review of our National Plan of Action (Sharks), and adherence to the fundamental principle of that document: “to ensure the conservation and management of sharks and their long-term sustainable use”.

Our status quo, offering legal protection to only two of the 112 species of shark found in our waters, is not sustainable.

We can join the swelling ranks of the environmentally and socially responsible, or we can look increasingly like the shark conservation pariahs we are.

One of these things is not like the other one, and I know which one I’d rather be.

6 Comments Posted

  1. Thanks Toad, I will keep my eyes out for it, dont recall ever seeing lemon fish being sold up here. I have seen flake in OZ however in fish and chip shops

  2. @nula 2:35 PM

    Rig shark, aka lemonfish:

    This small species of shark is a popular “fish and chip” fish, which has moderately fast growth and reproductive rates that make it less prone to overfishing than most shark species. Rig is found around New Zealand, usually in waters no more than 200m deep. It is caught in very long bottom set nets and in trawl nets, with a proportion also caught as bycatch in other targeted trawl fisheries.

    Ecological concerns: The rig fishery is notorious for posing a significant threat to globally threatened Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins, where they have been caught and killed in nets (especially set nets). Set nets and inshore trawling are also responsible for the bycatch of other dolphins, fur seals and seabirds. Restrictions on set netting and trawling introduced in May 2008 have reduced the risk of catching these endangered dolphins and other bycatch species. However, offshore fishing outside the closed areas still poses a significant risk plus, pending the decision of a high court challenge, the risk may return if regulations are dropped.

    Other concerns with the rig fishery include the limited research on it, the lack of quantitative stock assessments, unknown sustainability of some catch levels and limits (with declines in some stocks) and the lack of a comprehensive management plan. There are also concerns about seabed damage caused by trawling.

  3. photonz1 forgive my ignorance but i have never seen shark on sale here at fish n chip shops in new zealand unless it goes under another name?

  4. How much shark finning is actuall done in NZ waters? (considering ther rest of the shark is widely used here for fish and chip shops)

  5. Seems rather wasteful just taking the fin, I wonder how many people could be fed if the whole shark was used, and why just the fin and tail ? something to do with flavour or just the fact its a delicacy in the consumers mind ?

    Never did understand the practice.

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