On Sunday evening, TV3 screened an investigation into the practice of shark finning. For many Kiwis, seeing this brutal and wasteful practice occurring in our own waters - with the blessing of the quota management system - was a shock. Who knew that, even as our Pacific neighbours lead the world in shark conservation, New Zealand continues to condone shark finning?
Photo: David Vogt, davidvogtphotography.com. Finning and dumping sharks at sea – seen here on a New Zealand longline vessel - is legal in NZ waters, but banned by many countries in the Pacific and beyond.
Contrast this with the Pacific. Last week, the tiny Pacific island of Guam celebrated the first birthday of its shark protection law. The law bans the possession and trade of shark fins, as well as banning the product for which many sharks meet their fate: Shark fin soup. School students were among those supporting the law, and this weekend celebrated its one-year anniversary and called for a Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary to be established.
Photo: Angelo Villagomez/Shark Defenders. The first anniversary of Guam's shark protection law is celebrated by students.
Neighbouring Palau is another world leader in shark conservation. In 2009, Palau declared its entire waters a shark sanctuary. All shark fishing is banned, and any sharks caught accidentally must be returned to the water. For an island group with just shy of 500 square kilometres of land and around 20,000 people, the task of policing this sanctuary – more than half a million square kilometres in total - is immense.
Last year Greenpeace was able to support Palau in their efforts to protect sharks in a very practical way. Our ship Esperanza joined the Palauan patrol vessel PSS President H.I. Remeliik in a joint enforcement exercise. With an additional ship and the use of a helicopter, the task of policing such an expanse of water was made a little easier – and sure enough a Taiwanese longliner was spotted with what appeared to be finned shark bodies deck.
The vessel, Sheng Chi Hui No. 7, was escorted to port by the Esperanza and PSS President H.I. Remeliik and after further investigations the owner has been fined US $65,000 and banned from fishing in Palau's waters for a year.
Greenpeace is also helping the conservation efforts of Pacific countries in other ways. Across the region, sharks are killed in great numbers as bycatch by purse seiners using fish aggregating devices. Pacific countries are seeking to extend the current three-month ban on this practice, and Greenpeace is calling for this fishing method – purse seine nets set around fish aggregation devices – to be banned outright. We're also lobbying for an end to the appalling practice of deliberately setting purse seine nets around whale sharks and cetaceans which, somewhat like a FAD, act as an attractant to tuna and other ocean creatures.
New Zealand must support the Pacific, and bring our outdated approach to sharks into the 21st century.
- Ban shark finning in New Zealand waters
- Support a ban on fish aggregating devices in purse seine fisheries
- Push to prohibit setting nets around whale sharks and cetaceans
- Support the creation of Pacific Commons marine reserves, for sharks and all ocean creatures
TAKE ACTION: Call on Sealord, New Zealand's biggest canned tuna company, to stop using tuna caught by purse seiners around fish aggregating devices – a practice that results in the needless waste of sharks, baby tuna and other ocean creatures.