Air NZ shark fin ban puts heat on government, fishing industry

Press release - June 27, 2013
Forest & Bird and Greenpeace are congratulating Air New Zealand on its decision to stop freighting shark fins.

“Our national airline, which trades on New Zealand’s clean green reputation, clearly sees that transporting shark fins doesn’t fit with its environmental values,  and is therefore a major risk to its brand,” says Katrina Subedar, Forest & Bird Marine Conservation Advocate.

Photo © Alex Hofford

“But just as the trade is a threat to Air New Zealand, it’s also a threat to New Zealand. It’s high time that the government acted to protect our green-marketing edge, and put an end to this disgustingly wasteful practise.

“Shark finning is hugely wasteful, and is putting the very survival of several shark species at risk,” Katrina Subedar says.

Under New Zealand law, it is legal to catch a shark, kill it, cut off its fins, and dump its unused body overboard.

Both Greenpeace and Forest & Bird are members of the New Zealand Shark Alliance (1), which is calling for a ban on shark finning, by requiring that sharks be released alive or brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.

“Many Pacific countries are way ahead of our government on this. For example, Palau created the world's first large-scale shark sanctuary in 2009,” says Greenpeace New Zealand’s Karli Thomas.

Representatives from seven of the eight political parties in Parliament signed a pledge in November last year committing their support for a law change to ban shark finning in New Zealand. However, the National Party refused to sign the pledge.

Korean Air and Asiana Airlines have both recently announced that they will no longer carry shark fins. Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Air Pacific – which is currently rebranding to Fiji Airways – have made similar commitments, but which leave some potential loopholes.

"We would like to see all airlines adopt watertight policies, as transporting any shark fins from the Pacific region risks involvement in an unsustainable, if not illegal, trade," Karli Thomas says.

“The longline fishing fleet in the Pacific is huge and poorly controlled. There are virtually no stock assessments of shark species, pirate fishing is rife, catches are often transferred from one vessel to another at sea, and most vessels have no fisheries observer on board,” says Karli Thomas.

New Zealand is one of the world’s top 20 exporters of shark fins.

“Our national carrier has said “no” to carrying shark fin exports – it’s now time for the Government to do what it should have done long ago, and ban shark finning from New Zealand waters, full stop,” says Karli Thomas.

Both Greenpeace and Forest & Bird are members of the New Zealand Shark Alliance, which is campaigning for a law change that would ban this wasteful practice, as has already happened in 98 other countries.