Sarah Maguire
Sarah Maguire campaign leader

Pressure grows to restrict shark-fin trade

The Green Party is hoping this is the year the Government moves to crack down on the practice of shark-finning in New Zealand waters.

Fishermen targeting the lucrative trade in shark fins are allegedly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of sharks in local waters.

The fins are considered a delicacy in China and are used to create a thick glutinous soup.

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A group of international scientists have this week written an open letter to the Government calling for action to control the trade which they say is threatening the species.

"The shark fin trade, as it currently stands, is not sustainable," the letter from the White Shark Conservation Trust says.

"Declines in shark populations have been reported from many locations worldwide.

"The overwhelming body of scientific data supports the urgent need to focus on adequate conservation and management strategies rather than maintaining unsustainable levels of fishing."

Finning is completely banned in Australia, the United States, Mexico and Brazil, but is legal in New Zealand on dead sharks.

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Green MP Gareth Hughes has campaigned on the issue for some time and told TV ONE's Breakfast the current system to protect sharks is not effective.

"Some of the species are covered under the quota management system and that's what the Government says means our finning is sustainable, but given we've got so little data on sharks and there's virtually no observers I don't have confidence in that system and other countries are banning it outright." he said.

"Essentially you can spend all day at sea finning and dumping the rest of the 98% of the shark carcass at sea. Literally tens of thousands of sharks are needlessly dying just for their fins."

Hughes said demand for the fins in China is booming as the country's economy grows and it now represents a billion dollar industry. The fins are so popular, he said, more sharks are now being caught by tuna fishermen, than actual tuna.

However, he said this year could be important for bringing an end to the practice.

"The exciting thing about this year is the Government is doing a five yearly review of what's called 'The National Plan of Action: Sharks' - so I'll think you'll see a huge campaign later this year when the Government announces their proposals."

Hughes said he hopes the Government adopts a policy where the sharks have to be caught and brought ashore before their fins are cut off.

He said this would be easier to monitor and observe the catches fishermen are making.

The report is due to be published in August or September.

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