Complaining about the unjust and inhumane way in which sharks are slaughtered for just their fins in an overrated traditional Chinese soup is nothing new. I believe in a country like New Zealand there is no way shark fin soup or other shark products should be available and what’s more, other than money-grabbing (up to $80 for one bowl) and tradition, there is no reason for it either.
I am going to try my best to make a change and see some restaurants take it off their menus.
I am under no illusion the odds are against me. I am just a chef, just a normal person, I am certainly no Gordon Ramsay and will have to work very hard to get this out there.
I have always, since I can remember, adored sharks. They are by far and away my favourite animal and certainly the most misunderstood. I had a dream realised a few years ago when I swam with the sharks in Kelly Tarlton’s in the days before they introduced the cage. It was amazing just to free swim amongst these gentle animals that just seem to glide around minding their own business.
Shark fin soup doesn’t taste spectacular. I am not sure on the quality but when I was very young and ignorant I tried it a couple of times. It was nothing special and quite tasteless, so what is the point?
Sharks are caught on long lines with turtles, dolphins and anything else that gets snagged, then the fins are cut off and the body is chucked back in the sea. When it’s thrown back in the sea the shark is still alive so it basically sinks and dies a slow, horrible death.
You may be surprised to know it’s not just an international issue, in our own waters approximately 24,000 tonnes of shark meat is caught every year in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, in our own waters, we have about 24 of the species who are on the threatened list, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
New Zealand has grown a lot lately and this is shown in the forward thinking of the same sex bill passed in April. Why not become the first country to completely ban the use of the shark? We will never be big enough to stop the finning but we can help decrease the demand.
There are a number of restaurants that are selling shark fin dishes on their menu. I tried to find out about their side and see if there was any support for using the shark products by asking them questions around why they sell shark fin soup, where it’s coming from and if they had any issues with it. Unsurprisingly, I have been met with a brick wall.
Chef Blakeman urges his readers:
“I encourage you to heighten your interest and read a close to home report call Shark finning – NZ’s shame on the Forest and bird website. For more information on shark finning see:”
I support chef Blakeman’s right to make stand… But I am of the mind that honestly, from a New Zealand standpoint… there a better causes to stand up for. I would understand if chef Blakeman was protesting against the importation or trade of fins that come from countries where there are no controls at all, where fishing is a race to the resource, and where compliance is irrelevant. But Chef Blakeman’s stand is against finning in New Zealand… where finding a bowl of shark fin soup is an enormous challenge and where sharks are fished and processed according to a comprehensive suite of legislative and regulatory tools.
What concerns me about the shark fin debate in New Zealand – is the perceived lack of need for context. Where other states lack sustainability controls, other than input controls like imposing fins attached (FNA) rules for sharks taken as by-catch in any fishery, New Zealand sustainably manages shark species that are taken as by-catch as part of the quota management system that set as quota of sharks and requires catches to remain within that quota; furthermore a requirement exists for sharks taken subject to the QMS to be landed. They cannot be finned at sea and their bodies discarded as is commonplace abroad.
The QMS requires:
- All quota species are to be maintained at or above a level that can produce the maximum sustainable yield
- The effects of fishing on any stock and the aquatic environment to be taken into account and adverse effects avoided, remedied, or mitigated.
- All catches are to be landed and reported.
What’s My Point?
ENGOs and the Media are collapsing and confusing, arguably purposively, the issue shark finning as it occurs overseas, with the sustainability of sharks as they are overseas and applying it in a New Zealand context, without regard to New Zealand’s state of the art ITQ based management system. In my opinion its naughty. It is illegal to fin sharks in New Zealand and it is illegal to discard them:
- No commercial fisherman shall return to or abandon in the sea or any other waters any fish, aquatic life, or seaweed of legal size, or for which no legal size is set, that is subject to the quota management system (unless the return was a return of parts of fish lawfully processed on a vessel; or the fish was returned or abandoned to ensure the safety of the vessel or any crew member) [Fisheries Act 1996, s 72].
- No commercial fisherman shall return to or abandon in the sea or any other waters any fish, aquatic life, or seaweed of legal size, or for which no legal size is set, that is subject to the quota management system [Fisheries Act 1996, s 72].
- The Wildlife Act renders the practice of shark finning in relation to protected species illegal, where every person commits an offence against the Wildlife Act if they buy or possess for sale or sell or otherwise dispose of or has in his or her possession any absolutely protected marine wildlife or any part of it [Wildlife Act 1953, s 63A].
So it follows that shark finning as it occurs elsewhere in the world, does not occur in New Zealand. Yet notwithstanding, this many eNGOs and the media in general propagate a perception that it does. Which is a colossal shame when we consider how much graft actually goes into managing New Zealand’s Fisheries and marine environment to ensure integrity, their fecundity and continuity of the resource for future generations.
What is needed is clarity… clarity with respect to what actually happens in New Zealand, clarity with respect to the legislative and regulatory framework that governs the utilisation of sharks. With this clarity will come certainty. As it happens… the taking of a fin from a shark (at sea) and leaving the body behind, is inconsistent with the New Zealand Wildlife Act 1953 and therefore illegal in New Zealand.
Those fisheries who fish certain species of shark and land them in accordance with the law, which includes the processing and landing of their fins are not shark finning. They are not like those who target sharks for their fins, remove them and leave the shark in the water unable to swim or survive, these people are breaking the law. It is simple as that.
- Bill Passed To Ban Shark Fin Trading (dfw.cbslocal.com)
- Francesca Koe: A Big Move for a Small State — Delaware Bans Shark Fins (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bangkok luxury hotels ban shark fin soup (rbth.asia)
- New York Legislature Unanimously Agrees: No Shark Fin Soup For You (blogs.villagevoice.com)
- Calgary mulls shark fin ban (sunnewsnetwork.ca)
- New York Takes One Step Closer to Banning Shark Fin Soup (blogs.villagevoice.com)