The ‘Writing on the Wall’ for the Practice of Shark Finning in New Zealand

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For those New Zealanders who wish to submit on the 2013 draft National Plan of Action for the Management and Conservation Sharks (NPOA Sharks), submission are due on Sunday 8th December 2013.

After having a good look at the NPOA Sharks, I have to say they seem to have accomplished the impossible; it provides for both the ‘sustainable’ and the ‘utilisation’ aspects of sharks management as they are scripted in the New Zealand Fisheries Act 1996.

The goals and objectives of the NPOA Sharks were the product of some pretty inclusive inter-agency engagement. For a number of months Crown agencies (including MFAT, MPI and DOC), seafood Industry bodies (including Seafood New Zealand, Deepwater Group and New Zealand Inshore Fisheries ) and environmental NGOs (including WWF-NZ, Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and ECO) regularly met in Auckland and Wellington, and nutted out agreed high level provisions that could meet New Zealand’s international obligations, market perceptions, Industry operations, and the robust management and conservation on New Zealand sharks.

I also applaud the format and approach, which dovetails in with other NPOAs (like the NPOA Seabirds) and essentially sets up the second instalment of a New Zealand NPOA precedent. Both of these NPOAs subscribe to a risk based approach to the management and conservation which allows us to use scarce resources responsibly and effectively.

But how about the Content?

Well the elephant in the room is that the NPOA is essentially the writing on the Wall for the practice of shark finning in New Zealand. Indeed as the pictures of the ‘Wellington Wall’ demonstrate (below) This writing has been on the wall for awhile.

Writing on Wall "Ban Shark Finning". Wellington. New Zealand

Writing on Wall “Ban Shark Finning”. Wellington. New Zealand

Wall of Sharks. Wellington. New Zealand

Wall of Sharks. Wellington. New Zealand

NPOA Sharks objective 2.5 proposes to eliminate the practice of shark finning in New Zealand fisheries. This is certainly well received my many who see this practice as barbaric and abhorrent (and it is especially as it is done abroad where sharks are targeted solely for fins and the finless bodies discarded alive or dead). In New Zealand live sharks finning is illegal. That said, fins from dead sharks are landed, both as proof of capture to satisfy New Zealand law, and as a marketable product.

Click this Cover to download a copy of the NPOA Sharks 2013

Click this Cover to download a copy of the NPOA Sharks 2013

The NPOA Sharks defines shark finning as:

Shark finning is defined for the purpose of this NPOA as the removal of the fins from a shark (Order Selachii) and the disposal of the remainder of the shark at sea. As such, removal of the fins from a shark where the trunk is also retained for processing is not defined as ‘shark finning’”.

This definition is consistent with international definitions, and is clear in its intention to eliminate the practice of shark finning (even for dead sharks taken in fisheries), however it minimises waste by making provision for processing. Also it is clear that a shark that is utilised (including its fins) is not shark finning and this is not only fair for fishers, it is operationally doable. I do have one concern. This definition could result in the wastage of fins, as the definition limits the ability of fishers to discard unused portions of a shark if they land the fins. Perhaps this will need a hard look. It seems pointless to land the livers, the flesh and the other useable parts of a shark, but have to throw away the fins, if the fisher doesn’t want to hold ammoniating shark bodies on board the vessel that could ruin entire catches.

Otherwise the goals of the NPOA Sharks, notably the commitment to maintaining the biodiversity and long-term viability of New Zealand shark populations; the sustainable utilisation, the reduction of waste and the elimination of the practice of shark finning; & the continuous improvement of the quality of the information that is available from New Zealand vessels for the management and conservation of sharks are commendable.

Goals and Objectives NPOA Sharks 2013

Goals and Objectives NPOA Sharks 2013

I for one, am happy to see the NPOA Sharks occupying the tractable middle ground in New Zealand fisheries management. To me demonstrating the endurability, long term viability and of course the sustainability of harvestable marine resources, prior to their harvest is the fulcrum of the New Zealand Fisheries Act.

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One thought on “The ‘Writing on the Wall’ for the Practice of Shark Finning in New Zealand

  1. Pingback: New Zealand to install cameras on board all fishing vessels and implement Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) within 2 years | Green Fish Blue Fish

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